Walk through Pittsburgh’s North Side and you’d be hard-pressed not to find someone that’s in some way been touched by Pastor Ed and Tammy Glover.
In addition to Pastor Ed founding initiatives like Man Up Pittsburgh and Global Impact, Pastor Ed and Tammy started Urban Impact in 1995 as a way to impact inner-city Pittsburgh, one person, one family, one block at a time.
Through all of these initiatives, the Glovers have likely impacted many tens of thousands of people, and perhaps many more.
But despite his success, as Pastor Ed tells it, it wasn’t until severe hardship struck that he turned to fasting, in addition to praying.
If God is the vine and we’re the branches, then fasting nourishes us from the roots. If we’re lumberjacks cutting down a forest, fasting is us sharpening our axes.
Enter Pastor Ed:
Pastor Ed’s story
When I was in seminary I fasted once and had a horrible experience. I decided fasting wasn’t for me.
It was later, however, that I realized I needed to use the spiritual weapon called fasting, in addition to praying. It works much like a wood cutter who takes the time to sharpen his axe.
This is my story.
In the fall of 2011, after many successful years in the ministry, a spirit of agitation and violence had settled upon the Urban Impact choir.
My wife Tammy became increasingly unsettled and weary as every week seemed to bring a new crisis. Let me explain.
Knives, fights, and vulgarity
After children’s choir practice one week, a gang of kids not in the choir came and stood across the street from where the choir students get on their buses.
The kids played loud, vulgar, aggressive rap music and taunted the choir students getting on the buses. Tammy had to call the police to get the kids to disperse and to keep fights from breaking out.
The next week, a boy couldn’t go home across the street into his apartment building because a gang of kids with knives and other objects formed a blockade.
Tammy again had to call the police, who escorted the boy into his home.
On the following week, at the end of the night, suddenly Tammy heard blood curdling screams from the parking lot.
She ran to see if one of our kids was being hurt. When she got to the parking lot she saw a man stomping a woman’s head into the ground.
Again the police were called. The remaining students who were there were both terrified and furious.
It was one thing after another. Tammy’s discouragement hit an all-time low and she began to talk to me about quitting the ministry.
Now you have to understand: Tammy had been with me when we pioneered our ministry in the 80s, when things were rough and tough.
She’d lived through the gangs of the 90s.
She’d been doing urban ministry for 20+ years, but she was seriously talking about quitting.
She had everyone she knew praying, plus thousands of people she didn’t know. But each week it just seemed to get worse.
The Christmas concert
Finally, it was the end of the semester, and the kids were asked to do a big Christmas concert at a church in the Pittsburgh area. The church was located in an area where some people could be hostile to those from the North Side.
The kids went, and the place was packed. Over 1,000 people filled the church, with people standing in the aisles to hear.
The kids sang with all their might. Afterwards I preached the gospel, and when I gave an opportunity for people to respond, hundreds of people raised their hands.
In fact, more than 200 people filled out cards, and it took the pastor of that church two years to follow-up on all of those gospel responses.
We were cuttin’ down trees – but we also needed to be fasting to sharpen our axes to prepare for oncoming hardship.
Then fights broke out
After the event Tammy was concerned about the kids’ safety. She hurried the kids out and told the leaders to get them on the bus as quickly as possible.
But before the kids could make it to the bus, parked only about a block away, another group of girls attached our girls. The girls were ripping the weave right out of our girls’ heads.
Hair was everywhere, and our girls were screaming as they ran onto the buses.
Boys were yelling as they tried to push through the volunteers to get off the bus to fight the gang of kids on the street. It was mayhem.
This is how the night ended after 200+ people responded to the gospel.
It’s time to fast
It was at this point that Tammy called her Godly mother, Sheri, who said, “Tammy, I think it’s time to fast as well as pray.”
So they began a sort of Daniel Fast, a type of fast where you restrict your diet to certain foods.
The spring began and still things were no better. The concluding rehearsal ended in a cat fight between choir girls.
Frustrated, Tammy called all of her staff and her volunteers to a month-long consecration. The group gathered to set themselves apart to God and fasted some kind of food, as well as media.
They gave the time they gained from their media fast back to God for increased time in devotion and prayer. They desperately called on God to deliver them from the spirit of violence that had settled on their group.
And then they waited for two months to see what the new semester would bring.
God answered them
The choir began again in the fall, and it was unbelievable. It was as if a spirit of sweetness and love replaced the spirit of violence.
God was at work.
I took notice.
A shooter with illegal bullets
Not far from that time, one of the choir members, Shawn, was gunned down outside of his home. He pushed his younger brother to safety but took four illegal, hollow-tipped bullets. The bullets had exploded like bombs inside his body.
The bullets also severed Shawn’s esophagus. For nourishment, Shawn was put on IV food and was receiving the maximum amount of calories possible.
But after eight months, he was unable to gain the weight necessary to have his esophagus re-attached to his stomach. Doctors said that without the surgery, he would not survive.
But, without the additional weight gain, he would not survive the surgery. Things did not look good for Shawn.
How will he gain the weight?
The Performing Arts staff began a second month of fasting and prayer, this time with a number of students joining. The group set aside some foods and some media in order to increase prayer time.
But there was a caveat: the group asked God to give Shawn the calories they would be losing during the fast.
At the end of the month, a number of people shared their testimonies. And then came the report about Shawn: after more than eight months of not gaining any weight, Shawn miraculously gained 30 pounds – in just one month.
The doctors couldn’t explain it. Nor could anyone else.
But one group of people did know: the tiny group of people who had fasted their calories to Shawn. I became a believer in the power of fasting.
Fasting is for me
What I learned was that in order to overcome the enemy, we have to stop and sharpen our axes through fasting.
In the Old Testament I found that the saints of old – Moses, David, Elijah, Daniel, Esther, Hannah, on and on, all fasted as well as prayed.
In the New Testament the Lord Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul, the disciples – they all fasted and prayed.
They knew that they were in a spiritual war, and in order to win the battle, they needed to use every weapon in their spiritual arsenal.
Yes, they needed to praise God.
Yes, they needed to pray.
Yes, they needed to trust God, to obey him, and to have faith.
And yes, they also needed to fast.
Thanks Pastor Ed for sharing your story and for your influence. To learn more about Urban Impact you can check out its website here: Urban Impact Foundation.
Christ be with you, everyone, and stay strong.