Volume 5 Number 4
Agents of Healing
01 May 1992

Kenneth Noble meets two doctors who approach disease from the spiritual as well as the physical angle.

Kenneth McAll has either made a dramatic discovery of enormous importance - or he is as deluded as the psychiatric patients he is devoted to curing. He is certainly sane, and is taken seriously by many churches, doctors and patients. So perhaps more attention should be given to his findings of how, through prayer, patients find cures to anorexia, schizophrenia, depression and other psychiatric disorders.

In a matter-of-fact tone, though at times clearly moved, Dr McAll gives numerous case-histories. Dorothy was cured of her anorexia nervosa when her mother attended a church service of Eucharist for another daughter who had been aborted. And Mildred, a woman in her sixties, was released from painful stomach ailments when her vicar held a church service to commit her aborted baby to God.

Some of McAll's accounts enter realms of experience which I for one have no basis for evaluating. For example, at a recent Eucharist held for a heroin addict, McAll `became aware' of a man in an RAF uniform being `dragged in by two angels'. He was `told that the man's name was Keith'. Eventually, `Keith's spirit was released and he went off to heaven'.

Later McAll visited the addict's mother, who was rejoicing that her son was now cured. Asked whether she knew a Keith, she admitted that she had secretly married an airman called Keith when she was 76 during World War II. He had been killed in action only four days later, and she had never told her present family about him.

McAll's work is widely known through his first book Healing the Family Tree, which has sold an estimated 200,000 copies in ten languages, and his extensive lecture tours.

Frances McAll, Kenneth's wife of 53 years, says that he has always had an adventurous streak. She describes herself as a fearful person, though you wouldn't think so from her life story.

She met Kenneth at medical school in z Edinburgh, and in 1939 travelled to marry him in China where he was a medical missionary. Her ship was sunk by a mine in Singapore Harbour but she carried on, minus her wedding presents. The next , boat narrowly survived a typhoon in the I South China Sea.

Six months in Peking gave Frances a start in speaking Chinese, and I enabled her to get used to the Japanese occupation. Kenneth was already fluent in the Hang Kow dialect, having been born in China in 1910 to missionary parents.

After their wedding `it seemed the most natural thing in the world to be tramping with Ken across the seemingly endless, dusty plain of North China'. But the mood broke when `I felt a hard object poked into the middle of my back. I glanced sideways , at Ken and saw the nozzle of a rifle sticking into his back. "Don't look round," said Ken as though this was quite a normal event.'

Soon they were being questioned by three Communist Chinese officers. `After
we had told them we worked in the mission hospital one asked what we hoped to achieve. We told him we believed that the only hope for the world was a change in human nature and that only God could bring this about. "A very good idea," he commented, "but too slow. Our way is much quicker." With that we were dismissed.'

At Siaochang, the site of the hospital, there was a Japanese fort and the Chinese communists often launched attacks from behind the hospital. The Japanese responded. `We became quite used to shells flying over our heads,' recalls Frances.

The McAlls, a Scottish matron and ,some wonderful Chinese nurses' cared for the wounded of both sides and the local villagers. Eric Liddell, the Olympic Gold medallist sprinter of Chariots of Fire fame, was also on the staff. To Kenneth McAll's concern, Liddell could never be persuaded to take any exercise.

Once McAll was taking medical supplies to a hospital in an outlying village when he was met by a man dressed in white who pointed to a village along a side-track, saying there were many wounded people there. When McAll reached the village he learned that he had narrowly avoided a Japanese ambush. The stranger had meanwhile disappeared, and the villagers insisted that none of them had been out. McAll then realized that the stranger had spoken to him in English. Convinced that Jesus had appeared to him, McAll says, `My mocking tolerance of the implicit belief of the Chinese in ghosts and the spirit world was gone.'

Later McAll saw a berserk `devil mad' man cured by a Chinese woman's prayer of exorcism in the name of Jesus Christ. `At the time, I was sceptical,' admits McAll. Yet when he returned to England after the war, `the many inexplicable things I had seen and heard in China could not be brushed aside'.

The McAlls, and their first child Elizabeth, had had to endure four years of internment as enemy aliens before they returned to England in 1945. They were `weary in body and mind', each weighing little more than 85 lbs but also buoyed up by the way their faith had helped them cope with the problems faced by the 1,200 internees living in cramped conditions in a derelict Shanghai warehouse. Kenneth McAll had learned about Chinese art from a patient he had saved after a failed execution. He produced a series of posters designed to boost morale and help the detainees make the changes in their lifestyle which would improve communal relations.

Back in England, life was a great adjustment - especially for Elizabeth who was frightened to discover that cows were much bigger than the pictures her father had drawn for her.

They found a flat in Bournemouth and set up in general practice. They had five children in all, and Frances continued working as a doctor part-time when they moved to their present home in the heart of the New Forest in 1961. Frances McAll has published a book about her work with psychosomatic illnesses, For God's sake, doctor. These, she says, can range from the child whose fear of school leads to stomach-ache to the stress-related illnesses stemming from poor family or work relationships. It often goes against the grain, she says, to make time to go into such problems, but a casual `Is everything else alright?' at the end of a consultation will sometimes unleash the story of some problem. Her book tells of many cures - often through prayer and taking steps towards putting right a relationship that has gone wrong.

One woman patient, for instance, was abandoned by her husband the day after he had given her a new car. Till then he had been the whole purpose of her life. It took two years before she was well enough to go back to work. She contemplated suicide several times. Only the discovery that God still loved her, whatever else happened, saved her and put her back on her feet.

Not all patients believe in God. `But I get the impression that there are very few who do not believe at least enough to say "Help!" when in trouble,' says Frances.

Meanwhile, Kenneth felt that God was asking him to train in psychiatry. This meant living in a mental hospital, only seeing his family at weekends. `I learned all I could about mentally disturbed, sometimes violent people,' he says. `There had to be a way to steer them out of their private mazes. I had to find that way.' He adds, `My objective has always been the same: to help people get in touch with God and learn to live completely under his direction.'

He became convinced that many psychiatric patients were being bothered by the restless spirits of dead relations who had never been mourned or laid to rest. Through studying the patient's medical history and their family tree, he is often able to identify those who need to be `released' by a Eucharist service.

He admits that there is enormous scepticism about his methods amongst his fellow psychiatrists. But he says that, whereas normally 15-30 per cent of anorexics die, 84 per cent of those he has dealt with have been cured. He insists that his work is scripturally sound - although some fundamentalist Christians have denounced it as being `of the Devil'.

More recently, he has become interested in what he calls `disturbed places' and has written a book on his experiences, Healing the haunted. Whatever one makes of his claims of ghosts laid and haunted castles freed, there is no doubting the sincerity of his belief that Christ holds the answer to all manner of paranormal phenomena.

At 82, Kenneth McAll still sees three or four patients a week, his only concession to age being an hour's rest after lunch. Others have taken up his work and they publish books and a newsletter, and run training conferences. He still paints in the Chinese manner and recently held an exhibition.

The McAlls' rambling home was formerly owned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. It was once haunted but has now, of course, been exorcized - and provides a haven for those who come in search of healing.

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