E-journal June 5, 2007

Touch Hunger

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by Ellyn Davis

Last week I read an article on "touch hunger," and it prompted a lot of thoughts I'd like to share with you.

Several years ago I was at a church prophetic conference in Redding, CA. The object of the conference was to teach us to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and what God might be saying to someone through us. So there was session after session on hearing God and the many ways He speaks. It was a great conference and I learned a lot from all that was taught. But one incident there impacted me more than all of the teaching over the whole four day weekend.

It was a hug.

We all tended to sit in the same seats each session, and there was an elderly lady who often sat to my left across the aisle from me. She had some sort of palsy and her whole body shook all the time. On the third day of the conference, I walked over to introduce myself. Her name was Joyce Adrian and she was from somewhere in Washington state.

After we exchanged introductions, she reached out to hug me. When she wrapped her arms around me, I was overcome with the love of God and burst into tears.

I was a little embarrassed, so I joked, “Wow! That was some hug!”

She laughed and said, “My hugs often have that affect on people.”

Joyce went on to tell me that she had asked God for a way to demonstrate His love to others and decided she would try and hug everyone she met. And He began giving her hugs supernatural power to cause people to feel His love when she hugged them. She said that even tough bikers would break down in tears when she hugged them.

I was amazed, and I started asking her for a hug every time I saw her. Her hugs always produced the same effect—an overwhelming feeling of God’s love for me that brought me to tears and sometimes caused me to tremble.

When the conference was over, I went back to Tennessee, but I asked God for Joyce Adrian’s gift. It just seemed to me that knowing how to hear from God for others was really important, but what was even more important was that they were able to experience His love for them.

Most of the time when we hug someone it’s kind of a courtesy hug. You know what I mean—like a peck on the cheek is a courtesy kiss. It’s perfunctory and usually done in passing, our mind on whatever we’re hurrying off to do next. We tend to be awkward, stiff, stand-offish and insincere with hugs. And often the response we get if we extend the hug a little longer than usual is one of impatience, because the person at the other end of the hug either senses its perfunctory nature or suspects we might have an ulterior motive.

We especially do this with our children. We tend to be so preoccupied with “What’s next?” that we don’t spend the time to be fully present when we hug or hold them.

But I decided that when I hugged or held someone I was going to be totally there and really concentrate on being a conduit of God’s love for them.

So I started hugging people and really “being there” during the hug, being fully present with no agenda except to focus fully on the person I was hugging.

The Power of a Hug

Shortly after the prophetic conference, I went to another conference where a woman named Heidi Baker was one of the speakers. Heidi and her husband have a ministry in Mozambique to the poorest of the poor—people who actually live in the garbage dump. They have experienced astonishing healings and miracles in their ministry and have even had people raised from the dead.

I was amazed as I watched her during the ministry time after she spoke. She took the time with each one to actually hold them in her arms. When she prayed for them, it wasn’t as much prayer as it was holding and rocking them. And miracles happened. I saw the power of taking time for the individual, and how it demonstrated the love of God to people. So I longed even more for Joyce Adrian’s gift.

I continued experimenting with what I call “extreme hugs”—hugs where I was totally there and loving the person. Nothing happened for awhile. Then one day a woman I barely knew came to talk to me about her failing marriage. I felt real compassion for her, so I hugged her. She immediately started crying, shaking, and fell to the ground overcome with the love of God.

That was the beginning. Not everyone I hug, hold, or touch affectionately has the same intensity of response, but many have told me they feel the love of God for them when I hug or hold them.

A few years later, I heard about Amma, born the daughter of a poor fisherman, but known throughout the world as “India’s hugging saint.” Her mission in life is to hug people. She has travelled all over the world and has hugged 22 million people in the last 33 years. People who receive her hugs often burst into tears and report feelings of bliss. Some have even been healed of diseases just from Amma’s simple hug. Why? I don’t know for sure, but I suspect it’s because Amma’s hugs are like Joyce Adrian’s and Heidi Baker’s—they are a total, complete embrace of the person. For some, it may be the first time in their whole lives that someone has shown focused affection toward them.

Then I saw a video about the Free Hugs Campaign. Started by one man, Juan Mann in Australia, who stood in a shopping center with a sign that read “Free Hugs,” it has now spread to dozens of countries. It seems that people are so desperate to be embraced that they will accept hugs from total strangers in public places.

Watch the video about the Free Hugs Campaign HERE
. It is very touching (literally).

Touch Deprivation

Since I first met Joyce Adrian, I’ve become very aware of how “touch deprived” we all are. I read somewhere that the average adult has less than a minute of touch contact a day and most of that is shaking hands with someone.

Touch is such a basic human need that neither children nor adults can live without it. Children who live in abusive homes and who are deprived of touch have been known to wither and die.

The need for touch is real, and persists throughout our lives. In fact, I’ve recently read that escort services in larger cities are becoming aware of how deprived many modern men are of touch, particularly those who spend most of their time at computers, and they have begun targeting that segment of working men through internet ads. Men who have little human contact or touch in their everyday lives are willing to pay to get it in the form of escort and sex services.

And psychologists and social workers are beginning to believe much of adolescent sex is due to the hunger for touch.

Next week….Touch Hunger, part 2.


Always Enough by Rolland and Heidi Baker. Even the most desperate poverty, the most devastating illness, the most heart-wrenching grief is not beyond God's help. His love and power have no limits-and that's the message in this account of Rolland and Heidi Baker's experience with Mozambique's throwaway children. The Bakers, formerly missionaries in Indonesia and Hong Kong, share how their work for the past eight years in Mozambique, one of the poorest nations on earth, has borne spiritual fruit beyond their wildest dreams. Every day presents multiple impossible needs, but as Rolland and Heidi ''minister to the one,'' there is always enough.

The Five Love Languages. "Touch" is one of the five ways people feel loved. Gary Chapman, a seasoned marriage counselor, explains that people feel most loved in one of five ways: quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Though we have a primary love language, we can learn a second language so that those who are important to us have their "love needs" met even though their preferred channel may be different from ours. This is one of the most important books on relationships you'll ever read, particularly on enriching marriage relationships.

The Five Love Languages of Children and The Five Love Languages of Teenagers. Does your child speak a different language? Sometimes they wager for your attention, and other times they ignore you completely. Sometimes they are filled with gratitude and affection, and other times they seem totally indifferent. Attitude. Behavior. Development. Everything depends on the love relationship between you and your child. When children feel loved, they do their best. But how can you make sure your child feels loved? Since 1992, Dr. Gary Chapman's best-selling book The Five Love Languages has helped more than 300,000 couples develop stronger, more fulfilling relationships by teaching them to speak each others love language. Each child, too, expresses and receives love through one of five different communication styles. And your love language may be totally different from that of your child. While you are doing all you can to show your child love, he may be hearing it as something completely opposite.Discover your child's primary language and learn what you can do to effectively convey unconditional feelings of respect, affection, and commitment that will resonate in your child's emotions and behavior.

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