By Jim Ignasher
Don Turbitt is a man of faith who believes in miracles. In 1969 his wife Pat was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, a debilitating disease for which there’s no cure. The news was devastating, and faced with the prospect of losing his wife and raising their three young children by himself, Don turned to prayer.
He’d been raised Catholic, and attended church on a regular basis, but describes himself at that time as being “lukewarm” towards his faith.
“I went to nine years of Catholic school.” he related in a recent interview. “I knew a lot about God, but didn’t know God personally.”
After his wife’s diagnosis, Don decided to go to church every day for a year and pray for a miracle. Thus began a profound change in the direction his life was to take.
Several months later Don learned of a book about the apparitions of the Virgin Mary which had appeared in Garabandal, Spain. He ordered the book, and when it arrived his wife was the first to open it. When she did so, a scapular (A Catholic religious item) fell out of the book and landed at her feet. When she picked it up she felt an electric shock pass through her entire body! Then, at her next medical appointment, the doctors were astounded to find no evidence of her disease! Since M.S. has no cure, doctors pronounced Pat to be “in remission”, and told her it would come back.
“That was fifty years ago,” Don recalled, “and it hasn’t come back.”
Don continued going to daily mass, grateful to God for His intervention, but there was more to come. One day the priest suggested to Don and Pat that they attend a Charismatic Prayer Meeting. Briefly, such meetings involve weekly gatherings outside of mass to deepen one’s faith and grow closer to God.
The meetings were run by Father John Randall of Holy Ghost Church in Providence. Attendees prayed together and gave witness to changes in their lives, with short teaching sessions given by Father Randall and lay people. Through the meetings Don and Pat grew in their faith and experienced God’s presence in their lives.
After awhile, the couple began holding Charismatic Prayer Meetings in their home. Attendance was small at first, but over several months grew to fifty people, necessitating a change of venue to St. Augustine’s Church in Providence. Eighteen months later attendance had grown to 300.
Don was a Providence firefighter for twenty-two years before retiring in 1985. He supplemented his fireman’s pension by starting three small but profitable businesses.
“I owned three businesses’s and was making good money.” He told me, “Then one night (in 1986) I had a dream where God clearly spoke to me and told me to give up my businesses and work full time for Him.”
He referred to a Bible verse Mathew 19:21 about selling all that you have, give to the poor, and come follow me.
After leading prayer meetings for several years Don was invited to begin some overseas work as a missionary preacher with Renewal Ministries, evangelizing to thousands instead of hundreds.
Don’s first trip was to Poland, but over the years his work has brought him to twenty five different countries, where he’s prayed over the sick for healing, preached the word of God, and had many interesting experiences.
One in particular involved a time when he was arrested by Russian police in Siberia. A priest had invited him to come and speak at his church, and although Don had obtained a tourist visa for Siberia, he didn’t have one to enter the town where the church was located.
Not to worry, he was told through his interpreter, people “sneak” in all the time.
As Don, the priest, and the interpreter drove through the town they passed the police station, where the priest commented that the police were tough on churches, but easy on drug dealers. (The town had severe substance abuse issues.) Without thinking, Don had a sudden flash of intuition and said, “A policeman will join your church and help you.” to which the priest seemed highly skeptical.
Three days later, just after a service, Don and his interpreter were arrested and brought to the police station for not having proper visas.
“I was the first American ever arrested in that town,” he recalled, “but the officers treated us well. They allowed us to sleep in an office instead of a jail cell.”
The following morning they were brought to court, but the judge wasn’t ready, so two officers took them to gather their luggage. As they were packing, Don offered to pray over the officers to help them receive the Holy Spirit, and surprisingly, they agreed. As he did so, the first officer said that something powerful was happening to him, and while Don moved his hands before the chest of the second officer, the men exclaimed, “It’s hot! It’s hot!”
Back in court, a KGB agent pressed for a harsh sentence. Then the judge asked Don what he had to say for himself, and he replied that he’d only come to preach to help people get free of drugs and alcohol. Before the judge could speak, the prosecutor sitting with the KGB agent abruptly stood up and said “I believe him!”
Don was fined the equivalent of $143 American dollars and ordered to leave town. Afterwards, one of the police officers Don had prayed over asked the priest if his church counseled drug addicts, to which the priest answered in the affirmative. The officer replied, “That’s what I do on the police department. Can I join your church?”
And at that moment Don’s prediction came true, although he takes no credit for it. He knows it was God working through him.
Here in Smithfield, Don mentors monthly meetings of The Men of St. Joseph, held at St. Philip’s Church as part of their Catholic Men’s Ministries program.
Don was responsible for founding the MOSJ in Providence, twenty-five years ago, and today the organization is active in eighteen countries.
By the time this article is published Don will be in Poland on yet another evangelical mission. He has nine more overseas trips scheduled for 2020. His message is clear, have faith, for nothing is impossible with God.