Warfare Testimony: Joe Palke

Here is the article on the solid Christian college football player who ended up besieged by demons.

Here is what I wrote recently about the article that first appeared in the Minneapolis Tribune in 2002.  It depicts (from a newspaper reporters perspective) the ministry of deliverance from sin and the power of the devil that a college football player experienced last fall at Northwestern College. It is shared to encourage and invigorate hope in the Power and Authority of Jesus Christ.

The world of the invisible is alive, for the glory of the Lord.


Autumn’s Game: Cured, thanks to faith

Jay Weiner
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Published Nov. 1, 2002

As football players often do, Joe Palke required surgery. But this operation, said someone who was there, called for “a supernatural scalpel.”
The 6-5, 300-pound Palke needed to operate on his soul.
The manifestations of his injury, of his mental and spiritual breakdown, were obvious: the Northwestern College offensive lineman’s body shook, bucked and wiggled.
For five weeks, the pills the psychiatrist prescribed hadn’t helped. The sessions with psychologists took him nowhere.
Then Scotty Kessler arrived on the Roseville campus. A prayer session followed. Palke’s body was still again.

“A miracle,” said George Palke, Joe’s father and a Northwestern assistant coach. “There’s no other explanation. The human kinds of things had been tried. I don’t know how to explain what God does.”
This is the tale of a boy’s dashed dreams and his stored-away anger. It’s also, say people who are affiliated with Northwestern and its evangelical Christian views, about the physical signs of sin and the burdens of hate.
Tonight, when Northwestern faces Maranatha Baptist Bible College at the Metrodome, the 22-year-old Palke will be returning to one of the venues where his bitterness was planted.

The Dome is home to the Gophers and Division I football, which took an emotional toll on Palke.
“It was a freaky deal,” said Northwestern coach Kirk Talley of last fall, when Palke’s right arm flailed and his body bucked back-and-forth.
“As weird as the movies,” said Kessler, a coach and counselor. “When there is pent-up bitterness and anger, people’s minds, bodies, emotions and will can end up cross-wired. That, in my opinion, is what happened to Joey.”

Gophers dream

Palke, a star from Mounds View High, chose to attend Minnesota in 1998. He dreamed of playing in the Rose Bowl.
But his Gophers career didn’t pan out as planned. He was redshirted his first year. It was an enjoyable season with few responsibilities. In 1999, he played in three games on, by his count, 26 snaps. His dislike for football, which had been evolving, deepened.
It wasn’t the playing time that bothered him, said his father. And Joe Palke loved his teammates. But the way some Gophers coaches treated him angered “Joey.” It wasn’t a game anymore. It was a business of shouting and insults. Neither Palke nor his father will name names; George Palke, a longtime basketball coach at Bethel College, would only say the coaches are no longer on the Gophers staff.

“Joe’s the kind of person who wants to please, particularly those in authority,” George Palke said. “But [with the Gophers] he got mixed messages.”
One coach would tell him to block this way. Another coach would urge him to position himself that way.
Finally, one day one coach told him: “You’re a dummy.”
“It got to the point that he hated football,” George Palke said. “Instead of positive reinforcement, there was negative. And Joe keeps everything in.”

Hatred for those who offended him percolated. He was angry at people at Bethel, where, in 1997, his father was fired after 18 years. He was steamed at a neighbor near his family’s lake cabin; the neighbor restricted the area where Joe could fish.
“Something didn’t go right one day, so I was still mad about it years later,” he said.

Northwestern miracle

Palke left the ‘U’ — without telling the coaching staff why, he admits — and transferred to Northwestern in 2000. He felt happy in an unabashed Christian environment.
But, Palke said, “Satan manipulated me.”
It started on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2001. On the Eagles’ practice field, Palke began crying and rocking back and forth.
“He said, ‘I’m afraid,’ ” George Palke said. “He was afraid of doing wrong.”
His body vibrated, his right arm swung back and forth. Joe Palke was sick and hurting.
“Why him? Why then? Why that way?” asked Kessler. “He was spiritually electrocuted.”
Joe Palke tried psychologists, psychiatrists, medication. Nothing worked. But in games, when he got into his stance, he never jumped offside.
He told his father: “At the ‘U,’ I got yelled at if I was in motion. I don’t like to get yelled at.”
Kessler happened onto the scene. Now the head coach at Greenville (Ill.) College, Kessler was then a consultant to Northwestern coach Kirk Talley.
Kessler gathered Joe Palke, George Palke and two other men at the Palke home in Roseville. There, they prayed and talked. Family issues. Football issues. Sin issues.

“No fireworks, no trance, no mystery,” said Garth Warren, a friend. “Just five guys getting together to pray like you do at the hospital for a sick person.”
Said Joe Palke: “I had to work through things. I had sin in my life. It was just welling up in me. During that praying, I totally turned it over to God.”
It took four hours.

“When Joe was able to forgive those who he felt had done him wrong and done me wrong and ask the Lord to bless them, everything stopped,” George Palke said. “It was instantaneous. The shaking stopped.”

That was Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2001. The Saturday before, Northwestern played Martin Luther College of New Ulm. Martin Luther linebacker Carlos Leyrer watched Palke, stunned at his shaking.
The next Saturday, during league playoffs, Leyrer faced Palke again.
“Hey, you lost the shake,” Leyrer remembers telling Palke. “What happened?”
“I asked the Lord to heal me,” Palke said. “He took it away.”

Now studying to be a pastor at the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wis., Leyrer said: “I don’t want to take away the power of a miracle. I don’t want to say a miracle can’t happen. You always want to be careful when you talk of the faith healer.”
Leyrer paused on the other end of the telephone.
“But,” he continued, “if he prayed and it worked, you can’t argue with that.”

— Jay Weiner