With 58 years in ministry and still going strong, Marilyn Hickey has accumulated significant experience and expertise she is now compelled to share with today's up-and-coming Christian leaders.
At this stage of life, Marilyn believes wholeheartedly that she should not be buried with the mantle of ministry entrusted to her.
"Elisha, he caught Elijah's (mantle), but Elisha was buried with his," she recalls. "They threw a dead man in on him, and the dead man was raised. The Lord dealt with me and said, 'Don't be buried with your mantle. Pass it on.' So that's where God began to put a passion in me to mentor people."
When God first called her into ministry, it came as a surprise. Born in Delhart, Texas, Marilyn and her family moved to Sewickley, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh, when she was around 10 years old. Later they made their way to Denver when she was 16.
Marilyn became a public school teacher of multiple languages—Spanish, French, Latin and English—but she never anticipated visiting more than 130 countries, many since her pastor-husband, Wallace "Wally" Hickey, went to be with the Lord in 2012. Considering her significant platform, she also has interacted with government leaders and heads of state, but her ministry started small and grew significantly.
"Three years after we were married, he felt called into the ministry, which shocked me," says Marilyn, who turns 85 this July 1. "I didn't quite know what to do with it, and so he began to get a degree, went with the AG (Assemblies of God), and I would go along, and we went to these little churches."
Marilyn visited with people door to door to share the gospel.
"We always had people saved because we went and got them, and we had people Spirit-filled," she says.
After about a year, the Hickeys moved to Amarillo, Texas, where they served as assistant pastors at First Assembly. There she taught a Sunday school class for young married couples.
"I hadn't taught the Bible, but I loved the Bible," she says. "I had been reading and even memorizing Scripture since I was 11. I'd never taught, but God really blessed the teaching."
The couple moved to Denver where they started a church, which has gone through several name changes. First called Full Gospel Chapel, it was later renamed Happy Church and now is known as Orchard Road Christian Center. The church is located in Greenwood Village.
Marilyn's desire to reach the lost has been burning in her spirit for many years.
"But they don't just come to you always, so the Lord said to me, 'If you want lost people, you have to go where they are. They're not going to come to you,'" she says. "So God opened a door for me to start teaching home Bible studies—day and night. So I had 22 home Bible studies, and over a cup of coffee and a cookie and a Bible, people would get saved."
Those Bible studies led to her radio ministry, which eventually expanded to 488 stations. She also has ministered through television and continues to do so, co-hosting with her daughter, Sarah Bowling, on the daily show Today With Marilyn and Sarah (marilynandsarah.org), reaching a potential 2.2 billion households worldwide.
When Marilyn was 42, it became clear that God had big plans for her after she asked God a significant question: "God, have You called me? I'm responding to You by Your Word, but have You really called me?" She then heard God speak to her: "I've called you to cover the Earth with the Word." God's personal word to her "really propelled me from television into international ministry," she says.
Personal and Powerful
Marilyn has persevered in ministry even at a time of life when most would want to hang up their proverbial hats.
"I'm probably more active in my 80s than I was in my 40s and have had my biggest meetings in my 80s," she says. "In Pakistan, we had 230,000 people when I was 81. I'm getting ready to go back (in the fall). We expect a half a million."
She is focused on three arenas in her mentoring fellow ministers: experience, anointing and miracles.
"One is being a pastor's wife," she says. "As a pastor's wife of 54 years, I loved pastoring. To me, that's where the rubber meets the road.
"The second would be I could mentor people in media with radio. I've been on television the longest of anyone, like 44 years or 45 now," along with accompanying resources such as books and CDs. "The third thing I feel like I can mentor people with is international ministry."
A pastor at heart, Marilyn is open and willing to invite people into her home to be mentored. Her approach is personal.
"I would spend four to five hours with them just ministering to them and what they feel their need is, and then I would anoint them with oil, ask for miraculous ministries through them and take them to lunch."
Upon his retirement, Oral Roberts mentored others in his home, and that was the inspiration behind Marilyn's approach to mentoring.
"After he retired, I was still chairman of the board with Richard (Roberts)," Marilyn says. "(Oral) would have people come to his home in California and mentor them. And so Richard told me, 'You should do that. A lot of people were really helped by that.' So that's what kind of sparked me."
Her daughter—Marilyn also has a son, Michael—was the first to benefit from Marilyn's ministry mantle.
"Sarah shocked me," Marilyn says. "She always told me she didn't feel called to do what I do, and I said, 'I don't want you to be called to that. I want you to do what God calls you to do.'"
Sarah, in fact, wanted to engage in another kind of heavenly career.
"She was going to be an astronaut and all those things, and it ended up that God called her," Marilyn says. "I've had beautiful opportunity with Sarah, with Reece, and now my grandchildren. That's where I feel I have an edge on mentoring and I could be a blessing, and I don't want to be buried with it—I want to send it on."
Marilyn observes that one-on-one isn't the only way a person can be mentored. For instance, although she never met Bill Gothard of the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, "one lesson he taught on meditating changed my life," she says.
"I think we've all been mentored by a lot of people with their tapes, with their books, their television," she says.
Today though, she wants to mentor face to face, and she has mentored women and men. Taffi Dollar, co-pastor of two World Changers Church congregations in College Park, Georgia, and New York City, didn't wait for an invitation but took the initiative to ask Marilyn to mentor her. Marilyn had known the Dollar family for some time.
"She said, 'I'm coming to your house and staying with you, and you're going to mentor me,'" Marilyn says. "So she came for two days, and I mentored her basically on her speaking, her studying. I didn't need to mentor her on that, her preparation behind it, but her speaking, her altar calls, how she dressed, how she walked to the platform, her movements on the platform, that's what we worked on. So not everybody's the same."
Marilyn takes care to approach each person according to their calling. And when it comes to practicalities such as how to dress, Marilyn emphasizes that the colors that are worn are very important. When traveling internationally, there are cross-cultural issues of concern, but it's more than that.
"In a Muslim country, which I go to a lot, I dress the way they dress," explains Marilyn, whose largest meetings are in Muslim countries. "I have the hair covering, and in Pakistan, oh my goodness, their clothes are beautiful. Sudan also. But in Europe, I would wear, depending on the conservative churches, more suits and academic-looking things. In Hungary, I wear young, contemporary clothes, boots and so on. I wear boots in Pittsburgh."
With regard to mentoring, Marilyn says she "fell into" it.
"Two young men in our city who are pastors asked if I would mentor them, and so I had been doing that for 3 1/2 years."
Those young men, who now have started churches, still contact her, so she continues to mentor them to some degree.
"They've invited me to come and speak in their churches, but they call me with crises or problems, which I'm not offering to people coming to my home, although I wouldn't mind," Marilyn says. "If you pastor, you really love people."
Marilyn says she has also mentored Dr. Mark Rutland's daughter, Emily Leatherbarrow, "in the miraculous." Pastor Leatherbarrow directs Global Servants' House of Grace and coordinates fundraising for the international ministry.
"I prayed for years that the Lord would help me to operate more in the gift of healing," Leatherbarrow says. "When Marilyn Hickey became my mentor, I was changed forever. Dr. Hickey gave me so much more than guidance and mentorship. She became an inspiration, a counselor, a teacher and a friend. Still, the greatest gift Marilyn gave me was the opportunity to witness her in life. Her authenticity, love and endless joy pours out to everyone she meets, from the waiter at the restaurant to the taxi driver to the crippled man on the street. Marilyn's life has inspired me to live each day in the miraculous! Through the miraculous power of our heavenly Father, we can fearlessly and with great love reach out to heal the sick and dying world."
Word Focused and Spirit Filled
Both the Word and the Spirit play a role in Marilyn's mentoring relationships, as anyone who knows her ministry would attest.
Prayer has a significant place in her home, for instance. Every Wednesday when she is not traveling, she hosts a prayer meeting.
"We just pray in tongues for an hour, and we have people all over the nation who join us in prayer, like in D.C. and Tampa and Dallas and Waxahachie (Florida)," she says. "There are various places, and sometimes I Periscope it, and I'll have 100 people who will join me in prayer. So I think we want the miraculous, but it has to be Word and Spirit."
There's a reason prayer is so important to her.
"You have to have a good prayer life, because you have to learn to hear from Him," she says. "That's so key."
In mentoring on relationships, she brings the experience of being "married to one man for 57 years," she says. "It's only by grace. I don't mean to bring condemnation, but if we want to help people, I think our lifestyle has to be godly."
Experience is critical, but so is knowledge of the Scriptures.
"I never went to Bible school, but I memorized 23 books of the Bible, a lot of the Psalms, and I'm still memorizing," she says.
Raised in a "liberal Methodist" church, Marilyn says she "learned more against the Bible than for the Bible."
But it was also when she attended a Methodist youth camp at 16 that she was born again.
"When I came home, my parents didn't quite know what to do with me and just thought it was teenager—hormones—and then my mother got born again and Spirit filled when I was 19," she says. "And so that began to have a tremendous influence on me."
At one point, Marilyn's father suffered a mental breakdown, but God used her mother to bring him back to health.
"My mother watched Oral Roberts, got saved, got Spirit filled and just really began to pray for my father," Marilyn says.
When her mother went to a William Brown meeting, he saw her crying and told her to take the handkerchief in which she was shedding her tears and put it on her husband's body. After following his instructions, her husband was released from a mental hospital within a year.
Marilyn also has experienced significant healing in her own life. At the time she was married, she had an enlarged heart, but later, a doctor verified that she had "the most wonderful heart." This declaration came after she sensed God's presence pass over her heart during a mission service.
Another time, one of Marilyn's doctors was flabbergasted when he learned that after Brown prophesied about a child, Sarah was born, something the doctor had declared medically impossible.
Anointed messengers of faith have imparted much into Marilyn's life and ministry.
"We learn the Word, get in the anointing and (choose to) be around people who are anointed," she says. "They're very contagious. I was around William Brown, A.A. Allen, Oral Roberts, and I was chairman of his board for 19 years, so those kinds of people are contagious."
Oral Roberts University honored Marilyn in 2015 for her many years of service and ministry with the school's Lifetime Global Achievement Award.
With such accomplishments in her rearview mirror, some people wonder why Marilyn is still so active in ministry.
"People say, 'Well, when are you going to retire?'" Marilyn says. "I say, 'I am retired.' They say, 'What do you mean? You travel all the time.' I say, 'Retiring is doing what you like. I'm doing what I like.'"
She's doing what she likes, and part of what she likes is mentoring. Many young ministers are thankful Marilyn is not tired yet.
Christine D. Johnson is editor of Ministry Today magazine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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