Faced with a budget shortfall for the Walnut Grove Assembly of God
day-care program, pastor Bill D. Galus
, had a whale of an idea to fish for funds and listen for a word from the Lord: spend three days and three nights inside a finned sea creature a la Jonah.
From Jan. 16-19, the 67-year-old Pennsylvania pastor fasted and prayed while holed up inside a man-sized model whale on the church sanctuary stage and studied the Book of Jonah
by LED lantern, leaving only to use the restroom.
And, he reports, during those 72 hours, the Holy Spirit did give him that word, which he shared with the congregation moments after emerging from the whale during the Sunday church service
. In addition, the project raised more than $8,000 to boost Walnut Grove Christian Daycare
Galus, who received massive media attention as the “pastornaut” in 2015 when he spent seven days inside a mock space capsule
, says the Jonah and the whale idea came to him soon after his successful NASA-inspired fundraiser for the youth group at the church in West Mifflin, a suburb of Pittsburgh.
, who taught art before becoming the church day-care center director, led the team that crafted the papier-mache whale of flour, water, salt, and newspaper over a PVC pipe skeleton, crafted on a 4-by-8-foot plywood sheet. While the idea initially sounded eccentric to her, “If there's anything I've learned, when (Galus) gets something from God, you just go with it,” Miller says.
While Galus had planned to blog while inside the whale as he had during his time in the space capsule, the church’s internet service conked out right before he entered the creature. The pastor says that proved providential as it further eliminated distractions, enabling him to tune into what the Lord told him.
The church’s intercessory prayer group meets Thursday, the day the pastor entered the whale and closed its mouth. The group prayed and sang over him as he lay on his back on a six-foot-long foam mattress, his hands folded. “It felt like a coffin, especially the first day,” he says. The model whale allowed six inches above his head when he sat up. “People were around the ‘casket’ saying their last goodbyes, kind encouraging words.” He references Revelation 20:12
when the Book of Life is opened: “But really, the words most important in life are words God is going to speak of us.”
In that whale, Galus found rich revelation. When the Word of God came to Jonah, he fled to Joppa and paid the ship fare to Tarshish, the direction opposite from Nineveh.
“You can always find people to help you run from the Lord when you want to veer off from serving God,” Galus says. As with Jonah, “When you run from God, it'll cost you something.”
Galus wanted darkness to simulate the darkness that Jonah experienced inside the whale. But light entered through cracks in the whale. “Light always finds a way to penetrate darkness,” he says. “No matter how corrupt it gets, the light of Christ has a way of breaking through.”
The pastor notes that God showed compassion for Nineveh by sending Jonah to the wicked city to rebuke the residents so they would turn to the Lord.
“We must get on our knees and pray for the lost in America, that they'll find God amid insecurity turmoil and fear,” Galus says.
Deann Alford is a journalist and author. She attends Glad Tidings of Austin, an Assemblies of God congregation in the Texas capital.