GLENS FALLS - Larry Gonyea was ready to sell his 40-foot motor home and the tools in his workshop in December after doctors told him he had just days to live.
Already ill with pneumonia and blood clots in his lungs, he learned he had inoperable stage IV cancer. Treatments would do no good, he was told, because the cancer was too advanced.
He left the hospital and his family prepared for his death.
Now though, the 72-year-old Glens Falls man seems to have made a dramatic turnaround. He is wintering in Florida and having second thoughts about selling his possessions.
“The way I’m feeling now, I’ll be driving this (motor home) six more years down here,” Gonyea said by telephone. “I got hope. The power of prayer is amazing.”
The prayer Gonyea was referring to was delivered by Episcopal priest Bruce Mason and two members of his newly launched Healing Spring Christian Ministries, who “poured out the love” of God on him.
Gonyea called his longtime friends, Jim and Nancy Keating, when he was released from the hospital and told them about his devastating news. They urged him to meet Mason, from whom they took a series of healing classes. All three prayed and laid hands on the sick man. Mason touched a specific area on Gonyea’s chest and told him he might experience a sensation of heat.
That was no exaggeration.
“I wanted to look down my shirt when he took his hand off because I was sure I was going to be blistered, it was that intense,” Gonyea said.
A week later, Gonyea saw his doctor for a follow-up appointment and blood work. He said there was no explanation for the reverse in his condition.
“(The doctor) said, ‘For some reason, something’s changed here. I think now chemo is going to help you,’ ” Gonyea recalled. “You add it all up and different things that have happened to me and the prayer was the only thing you really could put your finger on. I never would have believed anybody in this field. I thought it was malarkey ... but I believe in the power of God now.”
Mason, however, always believed God could heal Gonyea in some way, he just didn’t know what that healing would be.
Healing a healer
Mason was plagued as a child with severe migraines and joint pains while growing up in the Chicago area. He was diagnosed with allergies to “almost everything,” including foods, chemicals, grasses and molds.
At one point, his parents thought about putting foil on the walls to create a barrier from the outside world. Mason’s symptoms continued through high school and college.
“I wasn’t healthy, but I managed to get through,” Mason said.
He married his wife, Shay, and moved to Washington, D.C. He was working toward his master’s degree at George Washington University on a career path in politics and communications, when his health deteriorated rapidly. He became hypersensitive to food and gradually was unable to eat anything without getting some type of allergic reaction, like migraines or boils on his face.
He participated in an FDA trial for an experimental allergy treatment, in which he was injected with a human enzyme, but he got worse.
By early 1997, while still in his 20s, Mason was spending his spare time mixing up different foods in a food processor to make a “mash” of items like fish, cheese and nuts. He could only eat small bits of any one food without being sick. His weight dropped by 30 pounds.
A year later, Mason and his wife began attending an Episcopal church in northern Virginia that had a healing prayer ministry. He knew of the concept but never experienced healing himself. Friends encouraged the couple to attend a three-day conference on the subject.
Mason found it to be a “revelation.”
“It was the first time I understood that maybe this healing thing is real and maybe this is an avenue I should pursue. Maybe God could heal me,” he said.
Mason was matched with a husband and wife prayer team at his church. He figured they would be praying to God for the solution to his physical allergies. Instead, they asked for the healing of deeper emotional and spiritual issues that haunted him.
Mason was adopted as a child and never knew his birth mother. He struggled with questions of identity like many kids in the era of closed adoptions: Why was he abandoned? What was wrong with him that he would be given up at all?
In addition, Mason grew up in a home with alcoholism.
“I was just a deeply broken person inside,” he said. “I didn’t look it on the surface. I looked very together. I was in the Washington environment — a suit and tie every day. But inside, I was literally dying because of the fears, the sense of being abandoned as a child, not believing anyone loved me or I could be loved.”
In the five or six months Mason was being prayed for by the husband and wife team, he got sicker, despite receiving medical treatment. He felt his faith was being tested to its limit. He got to the point where he said if he were to survive, God would have to take over.
The road to healing
Mason remembers standing in his kitchen and asking God to direct him to what to eat. For almost a week, he was led to certain foods that were just enough to sustain him. On the last day, he said God told him to prepare a full breakfast. Normally he wouldn’t have been able to eat anything close to that but Mason consumed it all. From that moment on, his allergies disappeared.
“That was a real promise that that chapter in our lives was over. God had begun to physically manifest my healing, He was taking care of the hurt little boy,” Mason said. “I can hardly even describe this realization of this new freedom.”
Within three months, he put on the weight he lost. He wanted to share his transformation with others. Mason became an ordained Episcopal priest and went to seminary in England for three years.
While there, he worked at a ministry called The Well, which became part of the model for Healing Spring. Mason also interned for a summer with the Rev. Nigel Mumford, the former director of healing ministries at the Spiritual Life Center in Greenwich.
He spent four years as pastor of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Lake Luzerne and taught others about healing. In 2011, Mason said he felt called by God to pursue the healing ministry full time in Glens Falls. His children, students at St. Mary’s/St. Alphonsus’ Regional Catholic School, walked by the Centrepoint building at 10 Warren St. one day and told him his organization should be located there.
In February 2014, Healing Spring Christian Ministries opened its doors to the public.
A team effort
Mason’s emphasis is three-fold: to provide prayer to those with emotional, spiritual and physical concerns; to evangelize through healing; and to teach, train and enable others to minister to others in their home churches. He also promotes a global ministry with participation in mission trips to Madagascar with the Anglican Diocese of Toliara.
He believes prayer should be used in conjunction with medical treatment for a holistic approach to healing. Mason stresses any type of healing comes through God.
“There’s nothing I can do in my own power and strength to heal anybody. Only by becoming available to God and allowing Him to use me or our teams that healing happens. We’re asking God to personally touch the person wherever their hurt is and bring whatever healing it is that they need,” he said.
Mason’s trained ecumenical prayer team comes from 23 area denominational and nondenominational churches. More than half the 89 members completed both levels of his healing course and several lead healing services at their churches. Some are involved in a weekly ministry at the Open Door Mission on Lawrence Street.
Fourteen meet with individuals with spiritual, emotional and physical needs during the “Nights of Healing Prayer” on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month.
Those with concerns are invited, on a first-come basis, to participate in one of two hourlong sessions. A maximum of six people can be prayed for during an evening.
First-time attendees fill out a confidential questionnaire about their matters and are matched with healing team members who welcome and pray with them in private booths.
Mason said people may be dealing with a range of ailments — from fibromyalgia or multiple sclerosis to problems like sexual, psychological or physical abuse; addictions; rejection or depression — or a combination of things.
The team is trained to sort out the most immediate needs and pray to God to uncover the cause so some type of healing can begin.
The people who came to the first session in February left “quite happy,” according to Mason, and asked to return.
The Keatings, who continue to pray for Gonyea, are part of Mason’s prayer team. They met the Episcopal priest about two years ago when he was visiting area congregations, inviting people to learn more about healing practices they could share with others at their respective churches.
The Keatings were, at one time, part of a prayer team at Bay Road Presbyterian Church and embraced Mason’s ministry. They enrolled in both levels of his 10-week classes.
“We were able to see Bruce was really called by God. We saw in him a God thing,” Jim said. “As a result, when we understood what he wanted to do, we knew God was moving here, not to make Bruce famous, but to do good in Glens Falls and Queensbury.”
The couple said they have experienced “small healings” in their own lives and pray for one another when they are ill, but they have never seen anything quite like what happened to Gonyea.
“I think this is one of the most radical healings I’ve ever seen personally,” Nancy said. “We saw with our very own eyes what he looked like in the hospital bed. He was definitely at death’s door. We saw how far he came from that.”
At this point, Gonyea is receiving chemotherapy in Florida and will return north in a few months to continue treatment. He said he recently felt well enough to drive his motor home more than a hundred miles in a day. It is, however, too early to tell what his prognosis is.
While Gonyea experienced something few could argue seems miraculous, Mason cautioned not everyone will be healed in the same way.
Healing takes many forms, and God ultimately decides what that will be, according to Mason. However, he said, something always happens when people receive prayer, whether the results are visible.
“God can just transform people. I think the ministry of healing is the most exciting thing I’ve ever been involved in,” he said.
Healing Spring Christian Ministries is at the Centrepoint building, 10 Warren St., Glens Falls. Call 746-4120 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.springhealing.org to learn more about prayer training, prayer nights and fellowship gatherings.
Healing Spring also offers prayer at monthly Fellowship Gatherings and has a prayer team that visits the Open Door Mission once a week.