July 15, 2011
Diane Koehler, who has waged a lifelong battle with depression, believes she has seen and personally fought with the devil himself.
"Satan actually came to me and told me if I didn't take my life he would take my son's," she said. "He showed me a gun. He wanted me to take it. I knew if I took the gun that I would be gone."
She resisted that entreaty, but after her son Timothy committed suicide, her depression deepened.
"At that point, I did see a psychiatrist for medication," Koehler says. "I couldn't tell him anything going on because I knew he wouldn't understand it. It's something I couldn't talk to anybody about, but the medication didn't work."
Koehler says she decided to kill herself -- she even set a date. And she would have gone through with it had she not heard Pastor John Goguen speaking about the devil on a local Christian radio station. She then began attending his church.
"The devil doesn't like anybody," Goguen says. "In fact, he hates everybody. But his arms are too short to box with God, so he boxes with us, as humans. He knows we are precious to God and to his son, the lord Jesus Christ."
Pastor Goguen is a conservative evangelical ordained in the Southern Baptist Church. After graduating from the prestigious Dallas Theological Seminary, he went on to open his own church, the Agape Bible Fellowship, in East Aurora, N.Y. It's a deliverance church, where they say they expel demons through prayer.
The deliverance begins quietly with Pastor Goguen commanding his flock to get rid of their demons -- demons that he says enter the body through our breath. The first sign of deliverance is when people begin to yawn incessantly or burp. As the service continues, many start to gag and cough.
"Some of this is painful," Goguen said. "It's just that demon having to leave under the authority and the power of the lord Jesus Christ."
Before long, the room becomes filled with people screaming, moaning and grunting. Some are writhing on the floor with others holding them down, telling the demons to leave their bodies. This form of deliverance is far from the Catholic Church's secretive rite of exorcism.
"Jesus did [exorcisms] publically," Goguen said. "He didn't do it behind closed doors. It was right out in the open. He healed and delivered, delivered from demons, and he healed."
While it may seem off-putting to an outside observer, Goguen says people have to get over feeling foolish or feeling that his method is "weird."
"[When people are] willing to repent of sin in the area that the Holy Spirit is working with them on, we find that they get help," he said.
Pastor Goguen: "Most of Our Services Are Just Good, Normal Baptist Service"
Goguen's ministry claims to help everyone from drug addicts to adulterers, to those suffering from severe illness, asking them to surrender to the occult.
"Not every cancer is caused by a demon," Goguen said. "Not every sickness is caused by an evil spirit. I'm just amazed at how much is."
Diane Koehler says deliverance has changed her life. "It's a relief, you know, you're getting rid of these demons...it's just amazing what the Lord can do to get rid of these things in me. It's a relief."
The pastor explains that everyone carries demons inside them and told his congregation that demons can come through tattoos, martial arts, Ouija boards and divination, just to name a few portals.
"Most of our services are just good, normal Baptist service," Goguen said. "Until we get to the end when we tackle the believers."
When Goguen says "tackle" he means literally. In one instance, a large man named Kevin Soudmire began lashing out at the congregation, knocking over chairs and screaming, until several other men tackled him to the floor. Afterwards Soudmire, the man who was delivered, said he felt "lighter."
"It's been truly a blessing," he said. "Until you go through something like this, no one can truly get to understand...it's a battle. I believe it's a battle between the Lord and the devil."