My IHOPKC Experience: Sharon’s Story
by Sharon Dell
I’m starting to realize that Mike Bickle is right when he says, “You’ll blink, and in a minute, ten years go by.” It happened to me.
I moved to Kansas City in January 2009 to do the Forerunner School of Ministry (FSM) at International House of Prayer University (IHOPU). My plan was to do one semester and then I’d figure out my next step later. I had just graduated three weeks earlier from a university in Omaha, Nebraska, and wanted some time in Bible school. My very first class was the Excellencies of Christ with Allen Hood. Back then we had classes at what we called the FSM building (Forerunner Church now), and they were in three-week modules between the monthly Global Bridegroom Fast times. I liked the class so well (understatement) that I decided to stay for summer school, so I could start the second year in the fall semester. Sometime around finishing my second year, I decided to stay for third and fourth year to graduate. I had so many good teachers, but my favorite teacher of all time was Stephen Venable, as he taught us classes on the subject of Jesus.
I was a second-year student in FSM when the IHOPU Student Awakening started in November 2009. My friends and I called it IHOPUSA, and it was such an exciting time, because you just never knew for sure what was going to happen, whether in the prayer room or in six-hour awakening meetings, or anywhere, really. I saw and experienced so much freedom and healing happen in those months—in myself, my friends and others, and so many visitors. I love remembering the healings and testimonies and times of joy and celebrating, usually led by a hearty “joooooyyy” from the venerable Wes Hall.
When I came in 2009, IHOPKC was pretty large and seemed well-established with many I recognized from the webstream, conferences, and visiting friends. It grew even larger in the first few years I was here, with the Awakening drawing lots of visitors, students, and interns. I never thought I would end up staying here for ten years.
From the beginning I volunteered with things like Sunday-morning shuttle driving and operating screens for worship teams in the prayer room. These are small things, but it was really cool to connect with different parts of the ministry and get to serve a little, as I was being blessed so much as a student. At some point, I started singing on weekly sets at Hope City and settled on the Spanish set there about five years ago. I’ve loved my weekly connection to Hope City over the years, and the people there, like Ray and Lisa Stribling and others, are amazing as they pray and serve with great faith.
Throughout my time at IHOPKC, I’ve been an IHOPU student, then, since graduating in 2012, I have worked as a class assistant, small group leader, ministry trip staff, FSM coach, etc. I worked as a core leader with the One Thing Internship (OTI) for five years, and this year I’m working with Fire in the Night as a ministry assistant. One of my favorite aspects of my ten-plus years spent here has been the people that I’ve met and served with. From students, teachers, and staff at IHOPU to interns and ATC campers to worship teams, staff, and leaders, it truly makes me so tender to see how the Lord has directed our steps.
In 2018 I was at loose ends with little relational connection after I finished five years of working with the One Thing Internship with Daniel and Marlies Hoogteijling as the directors. It was a hard transition from working so closely with that amazing group of leaders. After spending a month away focusing on missions in the summer, I was strongly considering leaving Kansas City to join a missions organization. I returned to Kansas City to fulfill my IHOPU commitments and prepare to transition, but I began to remember my IHOPKC family. In ten years, I had spent at least a year in each section—morning, afternoon, and evening—but I had never done more than a handful of sets in the NightWatch (midnight to 6am). I started doing a partial NightWatch schedule to coach an FSM NightWatch ministry team, sang a few sets on Ezrela’s worship team, and from there, I just kept edging further and further into NightWatch life. When the Convergence came in September, it seemed to emphasize what I had started to experience in my return and new experience with the NightWatch community. I opened my heart again to what the Lord had for me here. Now that I’m full-time on NightWatch, singing on Joe and Ezrela Ritchie’s team, and working with the Fire in the Night internship, I love how the Lord took my tired, lonely heart and answered me with something better than I had imagined.
I’m so grateful for IHOPKC. I grew up around prayer and worship, and as the house of prayer movement grew, I slowly started to participate and then very gradually felt called to it. Coming from a small house of prayer in Iowa to IHOPKC, I’ve seen how He remembers our history in prayer together, how I’ve grown in prayer, and yet, how much more He still has for me. Over the years, I’ve met many people who I prayed for (e.g., Middle Eastern Christians, college students, YWAM missionaries, etc.) without knowing them personally, yet they’ve been impacted by these prayers I prayed in this prayer room.
I find myself so tender when hearing and singing older IHOPKC songs. They were basically the soundtrack to my teens and twenties, and most are straight scripture. Before I moved here, I would always watch Luke Wood’s or Justin Rizzo’s sets on the webstream and revel in the way they sang and developed Bible passages. When I relocated to KC, I spent the majority of my prayer room hours over the years in the evening section, so the voices and songs of worship leaders and chorus leaders like these are a precious part of my prayer room memories: Cory Asbury, Matt Gilman, Ashley Prior, Misty Edwards, Audra Lynn Huff, Jordan Marcotte, Bryan McCleery, Ryan Kondo, Megan Thompson, Jonas Park, Jessica (Barron) Kohout, Mikayla Powers, Sean and Natasha Downs, Lesley Phillips, Gabby Malone, Abbie Allard, Andy Hailstone, Brandon Oaks, and Brenton Dowdy are some who stand out. I also particularly loved the rare times when Bob Powers or Cassie Campbell would lead. I’m so thankful for getting to be led in the prayer room by them and so many others throughout the years.
Sometimes I’m nostalgic and sad thinking of how most of my friends from my early years here have moved on, but the Lord is always faithful in reminding me of His kindness to me as I remain here at IHOPKC. My entire family lives here, all of us migrating south from Omaha between 2006 and 2011, and they’ve been a constant support and joy in my life. My parents are part-time staff, my brother-in-law Peter is the head of IT, and my three siblings have all either done IHOPU or an internship or been on staff. Now I get to watch my seven nieces and nephews (4 months–13 years) grow up here with night-and-day prayer as a normal thing in their lives. It is truly a delight to live here with my family and get to welcome so many others into this life and community of night-and-day prayer.
Have you experienced community in the place of prayer?
See pictures documenting IHOPKC’s founding and growth in our 20th Anniversary Timeline!
Sharon moved to Kansas City from Omaha, Nebraska, at the beginning of 2009 to attend Forerunner School of Ministry (FSM). After graduating in 2012, Sharon joined staff at IHOPKC. She has worked in various departments, but always remained involved at IHOPU and spent five years with the One Thing Internship. She is currently part of the NightWatch (midnight to 6am) and working with the Fire in the Night Internship. All of her family moved to Kansas City over the years, so she spends time with them and her seven nieces and nephews.