BREAKFAST CLUB – NUMBERS 3 – MARCH 30, 2014

START BY READING   NUMBERS 1-6

THE BACK STORY

Numbers starts abruptly 13 months after the Exodus. God directs Moses to take a census of the military-aged men. My first thought after reading chapters 1 – 6 is that the stories in Numbers are going to be fully comprehensible only if I am able to see them in context.

So I did a quick review of the ‘back story’.

The action begins nearly two years earlier with Moses encountering I AM in the desert. I AM commissions Moses to deliver the Hebrews from slavery, from the land Egypt and from the Egyptian gods. Moses returns to Egypt (after a 40-year banishment) to tell the Hebrews of God’s intentions and to confront Pharaoh.

You may be familiar with the rest of the story.

Ten times the God of Moses powerfully confronts the gods of Egypt. Ten times I AM humiliates those world renowned gods. Pharaoh agrees to the Hebrews’ departure only after Egypt is functionally ruined. Then he has second thoughts and pursues the Hebrews to the Red Sea to kill/re-enslave them.

I AM protects the Hebrews, delivers them through the Sea and drowns Pharaoh’s army.  God provides food and water and gives victory to the Hebrews in their first military battle. God’s angel goes before them; his cloud shades them by day; his fiery pillar illuminates their nights.

At Mt. Sinai God reveals himself to the people. They are terrified. God gives the Ten Commandments and many other Laws  which will govern their community life to Moses. The Tabernacle and supporting implements are constructed and assembled. From the beginning it is clear: worship of God is to be at the center of everything.

Despite God’s powerful validation of His power and his purpose for Israel, the people repeatedly act out their carnality and faithlessness.  They repeatedly complain about current conditions and reminisce over their time in slavery!

So as NUMBERS unfolds, I view the Hebrews in the desert as more of a crowd than an organized nation; more of a mob than a true People.

As we continue our journey through NUMBERS we will eventually recognize the central underlying problem. God is keeping his promises made to Abraham 400 years earlier. But Abraham and Abraham’s God are a distant memory to these people. And for all that God has done for them, they do not give their hearts to Him.

The task of turning a crowd into a nation is not going to be easy. Nor is it going to be accomplished quickly. But a nation must be formed before God can do anything else with these people. They must become a nation that God can rightly bless. A nation upon which God can put his Name. A nation which will display to all the other nations of the earth the sovereignty and glory and holiness and power of God.

SUMMARY OF THE ACTION IN NUMBERS 1-6:

In Chapter 1 God begins the process of turning a crowd into a nation. They must immediately become survivable among very hostile surrounding nations and peoples. The military-aged men in twelve tribes (two tribes being from sons of Joseph) are counted. They number 603,550. From this we can interpolate a total population of at least 3-4 million. We should expect no fewer. After all, a growth rate of less than 4% will easily account for than number after 400 years of rapid growth.

Chapter 2 marks the organization of the tribes around the Tabernacle; three on each side; the Levites guarding the N,S, and W sides of the Tabernacle; Moses and the ministry team residing on the East. The integrating factor in the new nation will be the worship of the God whose Presence is continually manifested in their midst.

Chapters 3-4 record the organization of the Levites for worship and for tending to and transporting the Tabernacle. Chapter 5 deals with maintaining moral purity in the camp. Chapter 6 deals with special Nazirite service to God.

IMPRESSIONS & OBSERVATIONS:

My first foray in NUMBERS confirms the original word I heard from God, “There are things in NUMBERS you will soon need.” Here are a couple of first impressions.

First, I immediately conclude that following God is not for the fainthearted! Deliverance from slavery and death is a cause for celebration (Exo 15), but liberation creates radical change. Former dependencies are gone. New responsibilities must be assumed.

Following God involves some degree of separation from the familiar and the comfortable; new levels of sacrifice and danger are inevitable; an almost certain desert experience awaits; a detachment of affections from things left behind will be a challenge; a new lifestyle begins to develop which is quite frankly impossible apart from God’s continual presence, leadership, protection and power.

QUESTIONS: Under the New Covenant, the Jesus decision appears to be an ALL IN or ALL OUT choice. The Hebrews couldn’t make up their minds. Neither can many of us. Do we want to be free, or do we prefer the slavery and death of our pre-Christian lives? The Hebrews’ indecision cost them their future and their very lives.

What about me? Am I ready to go ALL IN with Jesus? Or like the ancient Hebrews I am sometimes IN and sometimes OUT? Do I find myself at times thinking fondly of life apart from a deep commitment to Jesus? Will things turn out differently for me if I end up living life ‘in the middle’?

Second, the unmistakable message of NUMBERS 1 -6 is that God has designed life with His Presence at the center. The cloud, the pillar of fire, the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant formed the center of life, worship and community. Under the New covenant, the Father, Son and Spirit rightly form the center of life, worship and community.

For Jesus came to ‘tabernacle’ with us!  And following, His Spirit has come to ‘tabernacle’ with us. But there is an astonishing upgrade from NUMBERS where God is the external center; now the Spirit of Jesus comes to inhabit each of us who have been born-again. And the Spirit come to inhabit the community of believers corporately. God has become much more than our physical center. Paul says it this way, “…Christ who is your life….”

QUESTIONS:  Is Jesus my LIFE? Or is he just a PART of my life? Or simply a RESOURCE for my life? Or a mere FUNCTION in my life? What is my relationship with Jesus? Who is He to me? Is his presence as real and essential to me as it was to the life of Israel? Is His presence even MORE essential to me than to them?

NEXT TIME:  NUMBERS 1 – 6  (continued)

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BREAKFAST CLUB — MARCH 25, 2014 — NUMBERS #2

A few comments before jumping into a thoughtful reading of NUMBERS.

FIRST, some background. NUMBERS is the fourth of five Books in the Pentateuch–The Law–the Law of Moses—the first five Books of the Old Testament and the Bible. These writings include NUMBERS and are foundational to our faith.

Moses is considered by most Jews and Christians to have been the essential author of NUMBERS. Limited editing and additions do not compromise the Divine authorship of the Book.

The Exodus from Egypt took place about 1446 BC; the entrance to the Promised Land (Canaan) about 1406 BC. The NUMBERS narrative begins one year after the Exodus and wraps up just before Israel crosses the Jordan River (i.e. 1445-1405 BC) to begin the conquest of Canaan The basic material of NUMBERS was composed and collected by 1407-1406 BC.

The content of NUMBERS records several important events during Israel’s wanderings in the desert. That’s what we want to look at as we read through the Book.

SECOND, for those of us who apply 2 Timothy 3:15-17 to NUMBERS, the reading of the Book is not casual. We assume God wants to speak to us in these pages. We expect to read while listening to what the Holy Spirit is saying. We expect to arrive at a clearer perception of God and his ways.  With that clearer perception, we expect to arrive at a clearer perception of our own lives as children of God.

THIRD, in the scholarly community there is a problem with NUMBERS. Many scholars have difficulty with the apparent size of the Israelite community. According to the census in chapters 1-6, the total population of Hebrews was between three and four million. This contradicts the belief of some influential scholars who declare The Exodus—if it happened at all—to have involved only a few hundred or a few thousand nomads leaving Egypt. And, they suppose,  millions of people couldn’t survive in the harsh desert environment for 40 years anyway.

Such ‘scholarship’ presupposes a God who would not confront Pharaoh in a series of power encounters to free his People from slavery; a God who could not bring them through the Red Sea; and a God who certainly could not supernaturally maintain such a numerous people in a barren desert.

Such thinking seems to say more about the unbelief of those scholars than is does about the extreme nature and mighty acts of Bible-God!

But do the numbers work? Could the Hebrews have grown from a nomadic band of a couple of hundred to an emerging nation of 3 to 4 million people in just 400 years? Exodus 1 certainly records that the Egyptians feared the growing size of the Hebrew community. And it says the Hebrew women did not find childbirth particularly difficult (in contrast to the Egyptian women who did).

But are the numbers believable? There is recent history that says, yes. The population of East Africa in the late 1800s, when Britain brought an end to slavery and the slave trade, was estimated to be about 2 million people. In the next 150 years, the population of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda grew to some 100 million!

When Betty and I moved to Mombasa, Kenya in 1981, the annual growth rate was 4%.  A growth rate less than 4% would have easily produced the census in NUMBERS. Those numbers are actually what we might expect. I have no problem viewing the census in NUMBERS as accurate.

FOURTH, as with the reading of any Old Testament material, the Christian has the task of ‘baptizing’ the universal, eternal truth of Old Covenant Scripture into the New. (John 1:17)

There is universal, eternal truth to be appropriated from the Old Testament Law. Nevertheless, we should remind ourselves that The Law was specifically written to create and maintain the ancient Jewish nation of Israel. Most of us are not Jews, the ancient nation of Israel no longer exists, and in any event, followers of Jesus live under a New Covenant superior to and supplanting the Old. And in a head-up comparison, the freedom, power and possibilities of life under the New Covenant eclipse those of the Old!

Paul deals often with the issue of continuity/discontinuity. See Galatians 1-6, Romans 1-8, Colossians 1-3. See also Hebrews (esp. chapters 3-5 and 12:14-29) whose author is concerned with Old vs. New.

In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 to 7) Jesus contrasts Law-based religious life with healthy religious expression under the New based on grace and truth.

He discusses how the Old should be ‘baptized’ into the New with his examples of adultery and murder (Matthew 5): the New radically redefines sin and establishes a far higher expectation of righteousness—righteousness unattainable apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit.

So, while many specifics of NUMBERS concern Israel of old, the essential nature and the intentions of God for His People revealed in these pages have not and will never change. A better understanding of God’s nature and purpose may give us greater insight into what God is trying to do within and among us today.

So, let’s read NUMBERS 1-6 together. I’ll be back in a couple of days, Lord willing, to reflect on what I’m discovering. You can share what you are ‘seeing’ and ‘hearing’ with us at transformingprayer@hotmail.com.

BLESSINGS.

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BREAKFAST CLUB — March 23, 2014 — NUMBERS #1

Recently I was in New Mexico on a contract job. On Thursday evening I found myself in Alamogordo. I had some free time before bed, so I asked God for direction in my Bible reading. His response surprised me, “Do a study of Numbers. There are things in Numbers that you are soon going to need.”

NUMBERS?

I started reading. At the end of chapter six, I paused to consider the many things I had already seen with fresh eyes. No doubt, this was going to be a very interesting and productive study.

That Saturday as I drove back to Albuquerque, I had the impression I should be studying 1 and 2 Peter along with Numbers. Over the previous month a memory had popped up several times.

The memory came from 1971 when I was working with a church group in South Vietnam. In 1971 a number of young believers were prompted by the Holy Spirit to study 1 Peter. Only later would I understand that God was preparing them for life under Communism which would begin with the North Vietnamese capture of South Vietnam in 1975.

With that prompting, I made a mental note to study Numbers first; then to tackle 1 and 2 Peter.

On Sunday I visited a church in Albuquerque which I picked more or less at random.  The pastor–as it turns out–is teaching through 1 and 2 Peter! And in an even stranger ‘coincidence’, he invited everyone to come to their Wednesday evening Bible study where he is teaching through the Book of Numbers! As he put it, “Numbers has things in it that we are going to need soon.”

On Monday a friend called me from New Jersey. He had been listening to Christian radio. The speaker said, “You should be reading 1 and 2 Peter and Numbers. They are important.”

On Friday I talked by phone with a friend in Colorado. He reported that the senior pastor of the 7000 member church he attends is teaching through 1 Peter–and last Sunday mentioned something about studying Numbers.

In central New Mexico there is a science center on a 7000 foot plateau that points 27 eighty-foot wide radio telescopes (the Very Large Array) at distant spots in the universe. These radio telescopes ‘listen’ to the full energy spectrum (apart from light) to ‘photograph’ what neither human eyes nor visual light telescopes can see.

A single massive dish can ‘see’ huge amounts of matter and energy otherwise invisible to us. But even a single dish is limited in how much it can ‘hear’ of the extremely faint signals from billions of light years away.

Together, however, multiple dishes can ‘photograph’ in deep space what otherwise cannot be ‘seen’.  And when all 27 dishes together focus on a single tiny spot in the sky, they form a ‘radio eye’ equivalent to a 220 mile wide ‘human eye’!

As I thought about the sudden appearance of 1 and 2 Peter and Numbers in the New Mexico desert, I concluded that at least four ‘discernment dishes’ are picking up the same signal from deep space.

Namely, that God wants to speak to His People through His Word in 1 and 2 Peter and Numbers to prepare us for life and ministry in the dark and evil age that is dawning in America and much of our world.

I’m going for Numbers first.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll share with you observations, thoughts and questions that come out of the reading of Numbers. Hopefully you’ll join me in reading Numbers. Hopefully God will together give us eyes to ‘see’ and ears to ‘hear’ what He wants to show us and say to us through this commonly neglected corner of Scripture.

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GETTING OFF TO A GOOD START IN 2014

Breakfast Club — January 1, 2014  — Douglas Van Devender 

 As religions invariably do, Christianity has accumulated a hoard of externals.

The service of these externals has produced a host of young David’s clunking their way into battle in Saul’s armor. God’s did not intend this for his People. He has something in mind for us more dynamic – more flexible – more potent – more appealing.

Before anything was, before the initial Word was spoken, before light was separated from darkness, God had already conceived of us in his heart. In a sense, he already knew us.

Long before your parents provided the means for your physical conception, He was anticipating the very day He would bring you forth to walk the earth.

Long before the foundation of the earth, He yearned for the day when you would come to know Him as he has always known you.

There is a story here; a story that needs to be told. A story so grand you couldn’t imagine it unless you heard it. A story of cosmic intention. A story of infinite love. A story of The Lover — as King Solomon would call Him — creating The Beloved to be the unique receptor of his love.

Against the backdrop of all creation, across the sweep of all of human history, The Lover pursues his Beloved with purity and purpose and passion. He woos her until she lifts her eyes to see him; until she knows him, and responds to his relentless, lavish love; until she worships Him from the depths of her heart.

Now this is where we enter the story. As I’ve already said, we are not random; we are made for this.

From before the beginning of forever, the Lover’s deepest desire was to include us – to include you — among his Beloved. The Lover comes to us with the proposal of relationship. A proposal to be loved and to love in return.

Consider this! Consider what it means to be called into relationship with the One who made us! Relationship of divine love within which we are set free from slavery to the corruption of this fallen world. Relationship of love within which we are liberated from the suffocating strictures of human religion. Relationship of love within which we discover who we really are. Relationship of love within which his Spirit chooses us as his habitation.

The Lover comes to us to replace the old with the new. And as he does, He fills us with hope, and faith and purpose. He gives us joy and peace for constant companions.  He pours out his Life upon us until we realize He is our life.

The Lover is generous and able. He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He forgives our sin. He breaks the power of darkness. He rescues us from death. He fills us with his mind and his heart. He endows us with his character and nature. He arms us with his strength and his competencies.

Those of us who have accepted The Lover’s proposal to unite ourselves to Him in eternal relationship are coming to know and love and worship and welcome Him with ever increasing intimacy and confidence. As He draws us ever deeper into his embrace, we are becoming secure in the certainty that this relationship will outlast time and space.  For as it is written:

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness

of his Son… What shall we say in response to this? …I am convinced that neither

death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future,

nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will

be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Romans 8:29 and following)

I wish you a Happy New Year!

I wish for you all the blessings that God prepared for you before the creation of the world. I wish for you the fullest experience of the One who loves you and desires for you above all else in 2014 to know and love and worship Him with all your heart.

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THE BREAKFAST CLUB

Have You Eaten Yet Today?

I have a longtime friend who has worked in Asia for decades. Earlier this year he shared something interesting about the Christian house church movement in China.

That historic spiritual awakening has its roots in the Shantung (Province) Revival birthed amid American and British missionary activities more than eighty years ago. That vibrant network has grown to more than 100 million believers. And is still growing.

“In the morning when these Chinese  Christians first meet, they do not say, ‘Good morning. How are you?’  Instead, they ask, ‘Have you eaten yet today?”

This is a double question. First, they are asking if you have spent time with the Lord before beginning your day? If you have, they want a report on what happened during your devotional time.

What did you ‘see’ in God’s written Word?

What did you ‘hear’ in prayer when the Holy Spirit spoke to you?

How did you ‘connect’ with the living Jesus when you worshiped?

Second, they want to know if you have eaten breakfast. In Christophobic societies, marginalized believers sometimes lack the basics of life. So when food is scarce, the greeter makes every effort to feed that person.

This fresh way of beginning the day sounded attractive to me. So I talked with a few friends and several of us decided to try this morning greeting—a Breakfast Club of sorts.

I am encouraged by the results.

I start every day more focused on refreshing my relationship with God—letting Him speak to me through His written Word—getting tuned in to the soft voice of His Holy Spirit–before the noise of the day envelopes me.

When my morning schedule precludes this, I make every effort to spend this essential time with God in the evening before I go to bed.

I try to let the Holy Spirit set the agenda.

Sometimes I focus on a book of the Bible or I search the Word to discover God’s heart on a particular question or issue. Sometimes I read Christian history. Sometimes I’m impressed to spend time in intimate worship. Sometimes I’m called to prayer. Sometimes I pray in the Spirit to sensitize my spirit to His Spirit.

After eleven months, I am enjoying a more consistent devotional life and my relationship with Jesus is clarifying and deepening.

One ongoing prompting for me has been to meditate seriously on John 15 within the context of chapters 13-17. Relationship with God is described in a few paragraphs. To Jesus and John, this foundational, dynamic relationship IS the normal Christian life. Meditating on John 15 has deepened and clarified my relationship with Jesus this year.

But there is a second layer of benefit:  the interaction I am having with others ‘doing the breakfast thing.’

I am amazed at my friends’ fresh insights into what God is saying to them through the Scriptures.  I am encouraged that a personal word spoken by the Spirit during prayer to any one of us often applies to others as well.

I am also encouraged when more than one of us independently ‘hears’ the same specific word from God. The credibility of the word is strengthened as is our confidence that we are able to hear God’s whispers.

We share what God is ‘speaking to us’. We share prayer requests and their outcomes. We raise questions for discussion.  We are openly confessional about our journey toward a more authentic faith.

A couple of friends share almost daily. Some share once or twice a week. Others less often. I have no expectation about frequency. Everyone is free to share as they wish.

Did I mention that my breakfast club is spread over several States and extends even into Africa? By necessity we share by text, email and telephone. I find distance does not dampen the common task of spiritual formation.

It occurs to me that you might like to start your own BREAKFAST CLUB. The process is simple.  Tell a few friends, co-workers and family members the story of the Chinese Christians’ morning greeting.

Perhaps some of them will want to network their daily devotions with yours.

There are no participation requirements. No legalities to satisfy. No organization to staff, serve, or fund. The Breakfast Club is an informal sharing of life as we each share in the life of God.

Our common desire is that–as a result of our shared pilgrimages–Christ will be formed in each of us sooner and more completely.

If you initiate a BREAKFAST CLUB you may want to journal what you share with others and what others share with you. You won’t remember many of the wonderful things God will download to you unless you archive them.

And do be sensitive to the practical needs of those you ‘breakfast’ with. If they have a need you can appropriately meet, then do feed them that ‘other breakfast’ as well.  – James 2:14-17

Just remember to ask each morning, “Have you eaten yet today?”

PS: We’d love to hear what happens in your Breakfast Club. Just  drop Doug an email at transformingprayer@hotmail.org with your own JESUS SIGHTINGS.

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O HOLY NIGHT — A TRUE CHRISTMAS EVE STORY

O HOLY NIGHT

                Like no other evening of the year, tens of thousands of residents swarmed the streets of Danang. Young couples, groups of friends and entire families strolled hand-in-hand, or eased their way through the animated throng on flimsy bicycles, or puttered along on aging motorcycles in clouds of blue exhaust. The Christmas Eve throng was relaxed and noisy. A total disconnect from the normal tension and fear of a city at war.

The previous Christmas had been my first in-country.  The annual community celebration of Christmas Eve had surprised me. I thought of South Vietnam as a thoroughly Buddhist society, but in fact Catholics made up almost a tenth of the population. Christmas Eve testified to their four and a half century presence.

I was on the downhill side of a two year stent teaching English-as-a-second-language, assisting the youth ministry at Hope Baptist Church and participating in frequent refugee-relief projects. Lewis and Tony Myers were the residential missionaries in Danang. They and their four children had narrowly survived the Tet Offensive four years earlier. Their house had been caught in the crossfire between Viet Cong and US Marines battling for control of the city. Now they lived in a small compound on the quiet residential street of Le Tan Thon. Their open tropical house was tucked behind a two story commercial structure which housed the church and school.

Christmas Eve was a cultural bridge too good to miss. What better opportunity to tell the story of the Creator of the universe sending his eternal, one-of-a-kind Son in human form to do for humanity what we cannot do for ourselves–dethrone Prince Satan–break the power of sin—mitigate suffering—and overcome the terror of death?

Preparations for the night had been ongoing: decorating the compound and chapel, rehearsing traditional Christmas music, preparing special foods, and sending invitations to the two planned Christmas Eve services. This night was special. Many guests might attend who otherwise would never darken the door of a Christian meeting. So we wanted to present the Christ-story in the most favorable light.

The blistering sun set and the streets came alive. The night was sweltering. Scarcely a breath of air whiffed in off the South China Sea. The Vietnamese believers and missionary workers gathered. The first service was aimed more at church members and regular visitors. It would be relaxed and familiar. The second service would focus on special guests. It would be more formal.  Everyone dressed in their best:  Lewis and I in our vented Filipino shirts; the ladies and girls in flowing traditional dresses; the men and boys in white shirts and royal blue slacks.

At last it was time to begin.

We filed into the chapel and filled every seat. Men and boys sat on hard wooden benches to the left. Women and girls sat on the right. Most of the florescent lights were turned off and the room was bathed in the golden glow of long candles. The ceiling fans rocked along on high, threatening to blow out the candles, occasionally succeeding. Small geckos skittered along the whitewashed concrete walls and ceiling, dining on mosquitoes and other insects drawn to the light.

After welcomes and introductions, the music began. Tony was an excellent pianist. She accompanied the choirs and soloists beautifully. Lewis was an accomplished story-teller. He shared in fluent Vietnamese the Christmas story from God’s Word –that ancient story of love and intervention—as the wonder of it all settled on the gathering.

And what a story it is!

An ancient story of prophets and prophecies and sacred words—of angels and miraculous conceptions and a willing couple—of taxation and travel and no room in the inn–of a stable and a birth and visiting shepherds—of a guiding star and wise men and exquisite gifts—of an evil king and treachery and infanticide—but mostly of a one-of-a-kind new born baby. A baby whose life and death and resurrection and glorification would soon change everything.

Absolutely everything.

The first service went well. Afterward most stayed to talk and laugh, eat and drink, and savor the moment. But I was on the move. For several years our mission had ministered to refugees in a vast slum area in East Danang. We–and others before us—had conducted Bible schools for the children, operated a one-day-a-week makeshift medical clinic and of late had conducted Sunday services. From those efforts, several people had professed their faith in Jesus and been baptized.

Lewis had assigned me the task of driving to Dong Giang to pick up the new believers and bring them to the second service. This would be a very special experience for them. There was an hour between the meetings. If I moved along smartly I could get back just in time for the start of the second service. I got the keys from Lewis, hopped behind the wheel of the large, eight passenger Chevy van and backed into traffic.

The streets were filled with pedestrians who totally ignored me. Running over any of them would definitely put a damper on the evening, so I inched my way through the crowd until things thinned out after city center. By that time I knew I had a problem. This was taking too long.

I picked up speed and drove south to the west end of the pontoon bridge spanning the Han River. The river ran south to north, splitting the city in two before emptying into Danang Bay. The two-lane military bridge was the only crossing. As such it was the target of Vietcong sappers who often camouflaged floating bombs in vegetation and floated them down the river hoping to blow up the bridge.

Long delays at the bridge were common, but traffic was light, so tonight there would be none. So far, so good. I crossed to the pop-pop-pop sound of ARVN soldiers firing their M-16s at floating debris. A couple of minutes and I was over the bridge and up the gentle slope to the major intersection at the center of East Danang.

This part of the city was a long sandy peninsula bordered on the west by the river and on the east by the South China Sea. From this intersection one could continue eastward about a mile to China Beach where a number of US Army buildings grouped at the famed recreational area. Or one could turn right and drive south for several miles to the Marble Mountains which protruded from the sand. The Marine Corps Marble Mountain Air Facility sat at their base.

Instead, I turned north and headed in the direction of Monkey Mountain, a high peak which rose out of the sea at the north end of the peninsula. Its summit sported numerous US communications facilities and towers. Along the way I passed several US support bases lining the highway. They were buttoned up tight for the night. This was a dangerous area. The US military and Vietnamese authorities might rule the day, but Vietcong regulars and sympathetic civilians ruled the night.

Most of the area was settled by impoverished squatters who had fled the war in their rural areas for the questionable sanctuary of the city. The refugees lived in impossibly congested slums. Their shelters were constructed of discarded plywood or flattened soda and beer cans. Roofs were made of any scrap material. Floors were sand. Each tiny residence was surrounded by barbed wire.

Security was non-existent. The peaceful were defenseless. There were no police to call. Any hovel left unattended for a few minutes would immediately be disassembled by neighbors and carried off along with its contents. Victimized residents would return to an empty plot.

The area lacked clean water, sanitation and electricity. There were no schools, medical care, or stores worth mentioning. There were few streets. Entry into the warren of shanties in most places was via narrow paths threaded between barbed wire fences. Most paths were scarcely wide enough to accommodate a pedestrian or small bicycle.

And the darkness.

The greatest danger was the darkness. Few people could afford candles or lanterns. Street lights and retail lights were almost non-existent. Most of Dong Giang was cloaked in deep darkness from sunset to sunrise. Driving was extremely hazardous after sunset, especially when heavy rains cut visibility even farther. Debris often littered the road. Domestic animals sometimes slept on the pavement. And there were always invisible pedestrians dressed in black clothing along with unlit carts and cycles wandering about on the highway.

About half way to Monkey Mountain, I began to search for my turnoff to the right. I had been to the pickup area a couple of times in daylight, but the unmarked road was difficult to identify in the darkness. Time was slipping away, but if there were no further delay, I might still make the second service on time. There it is! I turned onto the road which was little more than a lane and a half wide.

I was almost there. The road terminated at China Beach about a mile down, but I wouldn’t need to go that far. Short of the end, I would leave the pavement and travel about a hundred yards off-road into a new shanty area where my passengers waited for me.

I spied my next turn. The opening beside a ramshackle bar was dimly illuminated by lantern light leaking through un-shuttered windows. I slowed and swung off the road to the right and slammed to a stop. What…? The van had sunk into very soft sand.  A few tries at back and forth failed to move me forward or back.

I got out and walked around the vehicle to assess the situation. The bottom of the van was flat on the ground. The wheels were buried half way up. On closer examination I realized the sand at the turnoff had been carefully softened to trap the first vehicle to pass. I looked through an open window into the bar—less than two yards from the vehicle–and immediately realized that tardiness was now the least of my concerns.

Gathered around an old pool table were more than a dozen black-pajama-clad thugs holding pool cues. Several had deep scars on their faces. Most were smoking. All were drinking. At best they were local gangsters. At worse they were Chairman Ho Chi Minh’s elves who would be delivering holiday gifts of explosive ordinance after midnight. They were snakes staring at a mouse.

The men poured out of the bar. They surrounded me and the van. Their smiles were malevolent and their comments were sharp and mocking. What to do? I didn’t speak enough Vietnamese to attempt to talk my way out of the trap. Maybe I should leave the van and feel my way into the pitch black slum in hopes of finding my passengers. Maybe with their help we could extract the vehicle and escape the trap.

But there was a complication. The lock on the rear door of the van had broken a couple of weeks before and Lewis hadn’t yet found anyone to fix it. So I couldn’t lock the vehicle. Still, there seemed to be no alternative but to abandon the vehicle and look for my passengers. I made it about fifty yards beyond the light of the headlights before I encountered the group heading my direction.

I did a quick inventory. From what I could see by their single, small flashlight, there were four small women, two malnourished men and about ten babies and small children. They were all dressed in their best clothes cleaned for the occasion. Their faces were bright with anticipation of the evening to come. But there was no chance this crew was going to push the Chevy back onto the asphalt.

We turned and headed back to the headlights. As I got close to the vehicle, I could see several men crawling around inside the van and two at the rear removing the spare tire. I honestly don’t know what came over me. Maybe I had reached my limit after repeatedly being the target of thieves; thieves that had separated me from  two motorcycles, at one point all my clothes except those on my back, my camera and pretty much everything else I owned except for my cat and my Bible.

I rushed forward, waving my arms and screaming like a Confederate soldier leading Pickett’s fatal charge at Gettysburg. I have no idea what I intended to do when I reached the vehicle. But the black pajama gangsters were so startled by the deranged American’s sudden re-appearance, they piled out of the van and dived into the bar.

The two in the rear bounced the heavy spare tire on the payment of the lane. Then one began to roll it in front of him, running away from the bar up the road into the darkness. I ran screaming in pursuit past the van. The tire slowed the thief just enough for me to close the distance. I judged could tackle him and retrieve the spare.

But something happened at that point. Maybe my initial mania had run its course, or my adrenaline for the day had burnt up, or I had finally tuned into the sound of a couple of the thief’s buddies closing in on me from behind. Maybe it was just God. Whichever, I came to my senses and stopped running.

The thief wheeled to the left and disappeared into the void. His trailing companions lost interest in me, ran past and disappeared after him. Lewis is NOT going to be happy, I thought. Finding a replacement tire for an American Chevy van was not going to be easy. Nor cheap.

It took a couple of minutes to retrace my steps to the van. The chase had covered more distance than I realized. By now the gang was easing back out of the bar. My fellow Christians huddled in the headlights about thirty yards away. There was fear in their eyes. They were not armed. Weapons were illegal for innocent citizens. Only military personnel, ubiquitous criminals and Viet Cong were armed.

A standoff ensued. I couldn’t leave the van without it being stripped down to its axles. The passengers were reluctant to approach and place themselves and their children in greater danger. The black pajama gang members seemed reluctant to act with so many watching eyes.

What to do? I suspected this standoff was going to be short-lived. What followed would likely be ugly and violent. I had to act quickly.

Did I remember that there was a small US Army outpost of some kind near the beach at the terminus of the lane? I wasn’t sure. However, there seemed nothing else to do but find out. Maybe someone there could help.

I started jogging down the lane. I was unable to see my hand in front of my face, but I could tell by the stars in the inky sky that I was headed in a straight line. I seemed to run for a long time, but on reflection I think it was probably not more than a couple of hundred yards. Eventually I began to see flood lights ahead and to the side. I rounded a sharp bend to the left and ran smack into a small Army post.

Flood lights illuminated the approach. They briefly dazzled me. The post was totally buttoned up. The main gate had been blocked with barriers and covered with razor-sharp concertina wire. The guard towers and the top of the high wall surrounding compound were manned with soldiers. They were armed with machine guns and M-16s. Oblivious to the heat, the men were clad in helmets and flak jackets. They were obviously on high alert and prepared for action. What they weren’t prepared for was me.

“Stop! Don’t come any closer! Who the blank are you?” shouted a sentry. I shouted my name in return and explained that I was an American missionary working with churches in Danang.

“What the blank are you doing out here?” he sounded incredulous. I quickly explained my assignment to pick up church members and reported what had happened to my vehicle.

“So what the blank do you want?” he barked. His tone was not friendly. There was a tinge of fear.

“Unless you guys can help pull my van out of the sand, I am going to be stuck there all night. I think I am in a dangerous place.”

That evaluation sparked a heated debate. A couple of men volunteered to get a deuce-and-a-half truck to go pull me out. Others protested loudly and profanely, denounced such a risky scheme.

You don’t know who the blank this guy is.

                You don’t know if he is saying this with guns pointed at his head.

                You don’t know if we are being lured into an ambush.

It wasn’t until later that I considered the terrible dilemma I had presented them. They would be crazy to leave the relative safety of their fortified compound to drive into a hazardous neighborhood in pitch darkness on the most dangerous night of the year. No soldier wanted to die in Vietnam.  Especially on a fool’s errand. Especially on Christmas Eve. Still, they were conflicted at the prospect of leaving an unarmed American civilian at the mercy of the night. What to do?

Beyond their personal safety concerns, I suspect their military orders prohibited them from leaving the compound after dark. They were on alert. The Viet Cong routinely launched attacks on holidays. The conventional wisdom was that Americans were most vulnerable at such that times: distracted by the holiday, some on holiday leave, and others too drunk to fight. All I could do was listen to the loud debate over the potential consequences of action or inaction.

After a few minutes, a non-com made the decision. He would send a squad to help me. He asked for the location of the stranded vehicle. Then he ordered me to return to the vehicle to await his arrival. I jogged back up the road to the bar wondering what I would discover when I got there. To my surprise, nothing much had happened. The van was still there surrounded by the pajama gang, and the Baptists were still holding their ground.

Before anything else could be said or done, I heard the sound of a big diesel roaring up the road behind me. The pajama gang heard it as well. They shouted and scattered for cover. The two-and-a-half-ton truck slammed to a stop next to me. A dozen soldiers in combat gear stood in the back pointing their weapons in a 360 degree arc around the truck. A single soldier dismounted to drag a heavy chain from the back. He dropped one end at my feet and secured the other to the front bumper of the truck.

“What do you want me to attach this to?” I asked, unsure what to do.

“Tie it to whatever you want dragged out of the sand,” he bellowed. He obviously wasn’t happy to be there. The situation was tense and the squad clearly didn’t plan to expose themselves for more than a few minutes. I hardly dared think what might happen if the black-pajama-gang came back with weapons.

I figured the best thing to do was loop the chain around the back axle of the Chevy. My problem

was getting to the axle buried under the van.  I got down on my hands and knees and began to dig toward the axle as quickly as I could. After a few moments, I was flat on my face, half under the back of the van.

There!  I slithered back, grabbed the end of the chain, dragged it under the vehicle and with some difficulty got it looped around the axle and into a rough knot. I hoped it would hold. The GIs might not hang around for a second try.

As soon as I stood, the truck driver gunned the engine, popped the clutch in reverse, and roughly jerked the van up onto the roadway. The retrieval would have probably gone a little smoother had I thought to put the transmission in neutral.

I crawled back under to untie the chain. The soldier snatched it back, piled it on the bumper, jumped in the cab and the truck accelerated in reverse back to the base. Their departure happened so quickly, I didn’t even have time to say, “Thanks. Merry Christmas.”

The church group dashed to the van and quickly packed in. I jumped behind the wheel and floored the accelerator to leave the bar and its patrons behind as quickly as possible. The rest of the trip was uneventful. But as you might suppose, we were more than late to the second service.

Arriving at the church, I parked the van. The visitors hurried into the service. I raced to wash the grime off my hands, arms and face. I brushed as much sand from my shirt and trousers as I could. The effort was partly successful. I ran for the chapel arriving at the very moment my presence on the program was required.

I walked as casually as I could to the front of the packed room. If anyone noticed my soiled and disheveled condition they didn’t show it. I took a microphone and turned to the congregation. Invitations had been accepted. Sitting before me was the Mayor of the city, several Vietnamese military officers, a few American civilians and servicemen and a number of local teachers and businessmen.

Tony began to play the quiet, melodious introduction to O Holy Night. I was the designated soloist, not because I was an accomplished singer, but I because I had had considerable experience in church and college choirs. I was the best available.

You know the classic Christmas carol. It begins quietly and low. Then it soars into majestic praise for the birth of the divine child. I sang

O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth

I sang the words as distinctly as I could.  Many in the gathering spoke limited English and I wanted them to catch as many of the lyrics as possible. I was surprised by the sound of my voice. It sounded fuller and richer than usual.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth

The words began to take on a deeper meaning for me. Vietnam was, for my generation, the representation of our fallen world: its corruption and violence; its godless leaders and their incomprehensible governance; the growing feelings of futility and outrage at so many wrongs and so much suffering.

But there was more to be said in the face of all of that. Those of us who had connected with God through Jesus Christ had found purpose amidst the chaos of our world. That purpose had brought me to Vietnam—had brought me to this service—had brought me to this solo—had brought me far, far from home on this Christmas Eve.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

And there is was. The world was weary. But we among all people had hope in a hopeless world. That’s why the Danang believers had chosen HOPE for the name of the first Baptist congregation. The name broadcast their experience in Christ and what they had to offer to their suffering nation. I suddenly felt the weight of this reality in a fresh way.

Fall on your knees
O hear the angel voices

                Yes, fall on your knees. Fall on your knees and worship the One who has brought us life—Life in all its fullness. Fall on your knees before the angel chorus announcing the birth of Jesus to startled  shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to those with whom He is well pleased.”

O night divine!

A night of God’s intervention in the fallen affairs of man. A supernatural night of nights when

God kept His promises to send One who would be the Messiah for the Jews and the Savior for the world. It mattered not whether you were born in Texas or in Quang Ngai Province. God has appeared to reveal Himself to you. It mattered not whether you were a European, African or Asian. The Creator has intervened to display His eternal, infinite love. He has come down to embrace you.

O night when Christ was born
Yes, we remember tonight that a baby of promise was born long ago just as Isaiah predicted:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given

And the government will be on his shoulders,

And he will be called

                Wonderful Counselor

                Mighty God

                Everlasting Father

                Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of government and peace there will be no end…

The zeal of the God of Angel Armies will accomplish this.

The music rose,

O night divine!
O night, O night divine

Then it repeated,

Fall on your knees

                                O hear the angles voices

                                O night divine

                                O night, when Christ was born

                                O night divine!

                                O night, O night divine.

The music faded. There was a moment of silence then smiles and applause. Not for the soloist I’m sure, but for the message of hope. The life-giving word that God has not abandoned us to the bondage to sin and Satan and suffering and death, but has come down in the form of a totally helpless baby–a baby in whom His fullness came to tabernacle with us—a baby who would grow into a man who would do for us what we could never do for ourselves.

God’s Son had come into the world. A very special baby. A very special child who would show us God. A very special man who would change everything. Absolutely everything.

What a God.

What a Savior.

What a Christmas Eve.

The service concluded. The evening was everything for which we had hoped. Many people lingered. Lewis didn’t. He took the keys from me, loaded the guests in the van and returned them to the east side. I suppose the trip went well; he returned later. He never afterward mentioned the lost tire.

Eventually a new year dawned. The lock was repaired and a new spare acquired. I finished my assignment in the summer and headed for home. But the miraculous One of Christmas Eve continued His transforming work in Indochina long after I was gone. His kingdom of light continued its advance against the kingdom of darkness. And it continues that to advance to this very Christmas Eve.

For the zeal of the God of angel armies will accomplish this.

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JESUS SIGHTINGS FROM KENYA Our Latest Ministry Expedition

Posted on February 18, 2013 by Doug

JESUS SIGHTINGS FROM KENYA   Embracing “The Jesus Who Is”

The first week of our three week ministry time in Kenya has ended.

Richard Cazzell led a three day Marriage and Parenting workshop for more than 60 young Christian leaders – then taught a shorter version of the same in the Bible School. Sam preached, assisted with teaching in the Bible School and ministered in a home group.

My week focused on teaching the GOSPEL OF JOHN in its entirety. This is a repeat of the class in January 2012. Those students were profoundly affected by the “Jesus Who IS” in the Gospel and took action after the class by organizing an association to help each other start micro-businesses to support their ministry efforts.

So we decided to offer the same course to a new group of students this January.

JOHN is less a biography of Jesus as it is a personal introduction to him. The object of the Gospel is to take the reader step-by-step from UNBELIEF to FAITH in the Son of God.

JOHN is sometimes referred to as the “Book of Signs”.

The apostle John selected 7 signs to point the reader to the “Jesus Who IS” and away from the Jesus we might imagine or wish him to be.  Signs are natural or supernatural events that seem to have special meaning or significance beyond the simple happening.

Such ‘signs’ (e.g. the plagues in Egypt prior to the Exodus) have a vetting effect on the observers: hardening the hearts of those who are rejecting the revelation of God while strengthening the faith of those whose hearts are open to authentic faith.

What was interesting this week was the dramatic and unseasonable weather during our teaching days. Eldoret was at the height of the dry season. There had been no rain for weeks and none was expected until March.

On Monday afternoon, a massive thunderhead passed over the area with a thirty-minute downpour. The local folks were surprised by the out-of-season rain.

Tuesday afternoon the same thing happened.

Wednesday an even a heavier rain.

Thursday even more.

Friday a four hour severe thunderstorm with torrential rain and hail.  I’d estimate conservatively that not less than 10 inches of rain fell in those five days.

But Saturday (after our schools closed), there was no rain. [Nor was there another drop during the remaining 13 days we were in Kenya.]

The students were buzzing.

Is this sign?

And if so, what might God be saying to us?

Or maybe it is just global warming?

Or some weird coincidence?

Or maybe…just maybe… this was a sign that prayers long offered for God to pour out the finances needed to fund the Final Push in world evangelization were about to be answered?

That is the nature of signs.

Their interpretation is a matter of ‘vision’ – the ability to see and understand what the signs are pointing toward.

JOHN presents Jesus in divine terms. Perhaps the most telling witness comes from Jesus who identifies himself half a dozen times as I AM – God’s name of choice to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3).

The crisis of faith and unbelief escalate as the Gospel progresses. After all, who can claim to be God and not create a major stir?

In chapters 7 & 8 Jesus confronts the religious leaders of Israel in a contest of ‘who’s your daddy?’ The corrupt leaders imply that Jesus is a bastard from Nazareth (that miserable little town in Galilee of the Gentiles).  And, they accuse him of doing his miracles using demonic power.

Jesus claims the God of Abraham to be his father. He identifies THEIR daddy as the devil!

Who is this man who dares to publicly label Israel’s spiritual leaders as sons-of-Satan?

  • Is Jesus a demon-possessed Samaritan?
  • Is he the illegitimate son of a nobody from a distant, disrespected province?
  • Could he be the Prophet-to-come predicted by Moses (Deut 18)?
  • Or – it’s a long shot to be sure – could he be the long-awaited Messiah?

In the end, everyone makes their decision about Jesus.  The consequences of that final judgment about Jesus are massive and eternal. One’s judgment about Jesus turns out to be one’s ‘final judgment’.

Each day I asked the students if their perception of Jesus were changing. “Yes!” they replied. “He is getting bigger!”

And BIG indeed is the One who sits at the right hand of God with ALL authority over the heavens and the earth.

There is so much more about the Jesus of JOHN I would love to share with you.

Let me close with this.

The apostle John and the Jesus of JOHN are agreed on this:

THERE IS NO MIDDLE GROUND (Ch 3) WITH GOD.

Each of us is either moving toward the Light of the revelation of the One True God shining through the Son who is sent from the Father, or each of us is shrinking back into Darkness to hide our unbelief and sin.

In the end, we will each meet God face-to-face: as a new creation in Christ Jesus (to discover him to be an infinitely more wonderful friend than we could ever imagined), or we will meet him still saturated in our sin (to discover Him a shockingly terrible enemy we could scarcely have imagined).

It all depends on who we understand Jesus to be and what action we take based on that understanding.

The apostle wrote this Gospel so that everyone might know that Jesus is the crucified, resurrected, glorified Son of God and the King of all creation — so that we might have LIFE in him – now and forever.

I live with knowledge that my ‘story’ will climax in the welcoming embrace of the Jesus Who Is.

I hope yours will too.

Blessings,

Doug Van Devender

Transforming Prayer     transformingprayer@hotmail.com

 JESUS SIGHTINGS FROM KISII, KENYA   A Mighty Rushing Wind

We just finished our second week in our ministry journey through Kenya.

This week we led a Pastors Conference hosted by Dr. George and Susan Mambeleo of Life Ministries. The venue was Mt. Zion Church in the southwestern mountain town of Kisii.

Kisii is located high above Lake Victoria and is agriculturally one of the most fertile areas in Africa. The area is also deeply entrenched in witchcraft and ‘Christianized’ religion.

Some 70 pastors and church leaders joined us for the two and a half day meeting. The church is a small stone building with an attached 4000 sq. ft. permanent tent (made of heavy, rubberized canvass) used for congregational meetings. We met in the tent.

Over the years God has gradually clarified the Transforming Prayer message he has given us to share:

  • God is creating a People for himself, called by his name, in whom he comes to live – now and forever.
  • God has revealed himself in Jesus who on the Cross takes away our sin and is to us The Resurrection and The Life, and The Way into the eternal People of God.
  • Through New Birth we become new creations in Christ – hybrid creatures able to live simultaneously in the visible physical world and in the largely unseen spiritual world – being unique in all creation as beings created in the image of God.
  • Jesus is the template for how we are intended “to live by the Spirit of God”:  in humility, absolute dependence on God, obedient to Him, increasingly manifesting His character, nature, purpose and competency.
  • In regard to the latter, we explain the Ministry of Jesus (Luke 4), the calling of EVERY believer to participate in and do the ministry of Jesus at some level (Luke 9 & 10, John 14:12a, Matthew 28:16-20, Acts 1), and the responsibility of Christian leaders to both model the ministry of Jesus and to equip all of God’s People to do the same (Ephesians 4:11-16).

All of this is foundational to the introduction of Transforming Prayer: a simple prayer model that enables every trained believer to participate in the ministry of Jesus in virtually any setting.

Over the years we’ve prayed with hundreds of people and witnessed the ministry of Jesus with our own eyes: the lost receiving salvation, blind eyes opening, the broken-hearted made whole, tormenting darkness peeled off, and the discovery of joy and freedom in the wonderful world of God’s grace and favor.

We also taught other important lessons: Richard teaching effectively on Marriage and Parenting – Sam Bass doing an excellent job of explaining what forgiveness IS and what forgiveness ISN’T.

During the conference we gave the church leaders two homework assignments:

  • Repent of YOUR ministry so that you might take up the ministry of JESUS, and
  • Ask God to identify within you ALL residual unforgiveness, resentment, hatred and revenge — then give them up completely.

Forgiveness.

Sam taught one meaning in Greek for forgiveness to be LOOSE THE SAIL. When a storm caught a boat under full sail and threatened to capsize it or drive it on the rocks, the order was shouted: FORGIVE (LOOSE) THE SAIL.

And so it is with unforgiveness which wrecks the effectiveness – even the life – of anyone who refuses to LOOSE THE SAIL.  Loosing forgiveness deprives darkness of the leverage necessary to ‘imprison’ and ‘torment’ us (see Matthew 18).

Multiple testimonies indicated that some leaders did in fact do business with Jesus during the night by loosing grudges long held. Others gave evidence they were at least struggling with the challenge.

On Day Two we did demo prayers in front of the group during which God showcased what he is prepared to do with those who embrace this new way of prayer.

One young leader was healed of deep guilt for personal sin and grief over a serious family situation. His hopelessness lifted off and was replaced by joy.

Another man made a first step back to wholeness after being derailed during a season of drugs and false religion. The next day his sense of calling had been restored and he appeared to be moving toward wholeness.

The bottom line is this: the way we go about ‘doing church’ in Kenya is a reflection of European and American church models that are limited in their effectiveness in Africa and — arguably — aren’t getting the job done well in Europe or America either!

What is emerging from the ecclesiastical haze is a choice: to continue to ‘do church’ with increasingly limited fruitfulness and a limited capacity to actualize Jesus-ministry among Jesus’ People…

OR

…to embrace a model  that activates ALL of God’s People to do the ministry of Jesus — and that with the aims of (1) equipping of God’s People to effectively evangelize the nations, and (2) enabling them to heal God’s People while bringing them to maturity in Christ.

The meeting concluded as the leaders grappled with this choice.

Communion was served.

Closing prayers were offered by several leaders.

A final goodbye was spoken by the host.

At that very moment, out of a clear summer sky, a tornado-like wind descended, blasting into the front of the building with a great roar, intensifying as it came. Suddenly the roof lifted, peeled away, leaving the church completely open to the sky. One section of roof was later found more than half mile away.

The funnel traveled the length of the remaining structure with a roar, a cloud of sand and dust marking its path. At the back wall, the powerful wind lifted and quickly dissipated.

People in a nearby market heard an explosion and the great roaring sound, and — seeing the destroyed church — assumed everyone inside to be dead. They did not approach the building, not wanting to see the dead bodies.

An older woman (who had been cooking lunch each day for the conference) took her Bible and went to meet the crowd of onlookers. SURELY WHAT THE PEOPLE IN THAT BUILDING ARE DOING IS EVIL, the people said, FOR SATAN TO HAVE COME AND KILLED THEM.

NO, she said. Opening her Bible she preached from Acts 2, explaining that God had come down to affirm the message that had just been delivered. ‘Now we have experienced something of Pentecost ourselves.’

For astonishingly, no one was injured or killed – virtually nothing inside the building was disturbed (water bottles and Bibles on the tables remained untouched) — nor were any objects in the building destroyed or missing such as one would have expected in such a violent wind – no one felt fear or panicked – few made any effort to evacuate the building – we all stood in place as the wind blasted around and past us. An adjoining tent used by the youth was untouched.

One pastor later remarked, “The wind was so powerful, but so gentle.”

We were stunned. There was no natural explanation for what we had just witnessed and experienced. The weather was clear and dry — there had been a gentle breeze all week – except for this one dramatic event.

No one doubted that this was a sign!

But how were we to properly interpret the sign?

The initial response from a few was typical, concluding that the devil was angry because our teaching and prayers had threatened him. ‘He must be showing his displeasure by attempting to destroy the church and everyone in it.’

But I had just finished teaching that the churches in Kenya were giving far too much credit to the devil for the happenings of life. Rather than being preoccupied with the devil, we should press deeply into relationship with Jesus who in any event “disarmed” the principalities and powers of darkness on the Cross (Col 2:15)

So as we continued to pray for understanding, several convictions grew:

This was the finger of God come to confirm the message and ministry of the week AND to figuratively rip off the roof of a ‘closeted African church model’ to open God’s People to the heavens and to the community.

Several had the strong impression that just as God tore the veil in the Temple at the moment of Jesus’ death to open the way for everyone to enter the presence of God in the Holy of Holies, so God was tearing a veil off outdated religious forms to punctuate His offer made in the conference to move us into something better.

Had the roof remained firmly attached to the framework of the building, the entire building would have pushed over and almost certainly resulted in injuries and fatalities.

But the building “loosed the roof” and it flew off with otherwise minimal consequence.

Or maybe it was a freak meteorological event?

Or a monstrous dust devil….?

After all, that’s the way it is with signs. Different ‘eyes’ see different meanings.

But a sign it was.  Everyone agreed.

Many onlookers declared they would attend the church on Sunday to see what God was doing. As the news ran through Kisii, some who had ignored the invitation to attend the meeting called to express their deep regret at having stayed away.

I can say for our team with certainty, we passed a transition point in Kisii as the wind passed us.

That day we left something behind – gone with the wind, if you will.  Today we are moving into something fresh – authentic – dynamic – and thrilling in our relationship with Jesus.

The adventure of tracking with Jesus continues for us.

We hope it is for you, too.

Blessings,  Doug Van Devender & Team

Transforming Prayer   transformingprayer@hotmail.com

MORE JESUS SIGHTINGS  An Example of Transforming Prayer

Eldoret, Kenya – February 13, 2013

While the focus of this week’s T4T Conference is to train evangelists and church planters how to bring and incorporate large numbers of new converts into the People of God, we continue to pray daily for leaders who need a healing touch from God.

Today we prayed for a young pastor named Jimmy who is doing an excellent work of training new leaders in Uganda.

The presenting issue was a near fatal heart arrhythmia that had recently hospitalized him for ten days. Our team of four gathered around him to pray during a lunch break.

As we commonly do, we asked God if there were any issue He wanted to address before we prayed over our friend’s medical condition?

The ministry of Jesus is five-fold (Like 4:18ff)

  • spiritual healing and salvation
  • physical healing
  • emotional healing
  • liberation from the powers of darkness
  • entering the age of Gods favor.

We have learned that the initial request for prayer may provide God the opening to do even more than is asked.  So, we follow the lead of the Spirit to discover the intentions of Jesus.

The answer from the Spirit was, “No other matter to address first.”

So we proceeded.

Before praying for the healing of the young man’s heart we asked him if he were aware of any underlying problem contributing to the heart’s irregularity.

He answered that the doctors said he had an overactive thyroid which they could only partially control with medication.

So we asked Jesus if there were any underlying factor feeding into the thyroid problem?

The young man was quiet for a moment. Then he told us of being anxious about family matters and ministry challenges. (If you knew the details of his life situation, you would wonder how he manages to keep going!)

So we asked Jesus to speak the truth to him about these anxious feelings.

The answer was, “I own you. I own your family. I own your business. I own your ministry…AND… I care for each them more than you care for them!”

After considering that for a moment, the young pastor expressed the realization that everything that has come to him in this life has come from Jesus.

“Nothing has ever really come from my efforts alone,” he confessed.

I asked, “How does that make you feel – knowing that everything you need and have comes from Jesus?”

“Peaceful.”

I thought it best to check and see if the root of the anxiety had been pulled.  “Now, see if you can locate the anxiety you have been experiencing.”

He could not. The anxious feelings had dissipated.

So with the assurance that God was welcoming our prayers, we prayed for several minutes for God to heal his thyroid.

At the conclusion, I asked, “How do you feel now?”

He reported that his strength had returned and that he felt well. So, we prayed for him to be filled afresh with the Holy Spirit who – in any event — provides life to our mortal bodies.

The minister was relaxed and smiling as we finished.

So, how do we evaluate such a prayer session? We wait for objective confirmation concerning his healing before we report it as so:

  • If he has been healed, this most recent experience of God’s mercy and power will be added to his already dramatic and extensive testimony of the living God’s work in and through him.
  • If there is improvement, we will likely ask God for discernment and pray again for his healing to be complete.
  • If there is no improvement, we will ask God for discernment on how to pray and we will pray again.

Until he know for sure what God has done in prayer, the pastor remains under medical care with continuing medication.

As is so often the case, the initial voiced prayer request turned out to be only one aspect of what God wished to address.

With patience and discernment, an ordinary prayer session can be turned into Transforming Prayer.

[NOTE: When we left Jimmy two days later he reported that he had had no further heart irregularities.]

 MORE JESUS SIGHTINGS FROM AFRICA  And Signs Shall Follow Them

During our 32 years of ministry in Africa, we have experienced what the New Testament calls ‘signs and wonders’. I am often asked why such ‘signs’ seem rare in American church life? The evaluations Jesus made of the religious situation in his day seem to apply to us as well:

  • God is active around us all the time. Our failure to see and properly discern what he is saying and doing is rooted in spiritual blindness — and that blindness (often matched by a deafness to God’s voice) is rooted in unbelief.

I realize I will make no new friends by saying this, but the American Christian community functions at a seriously high level of unbelief when it comes to discerning and acknowledging the contemporary presence and work of Jesus. Hence, we live in a ‘sign-less’ world and wonder about the ‘exotic’ reports we hear from places like Africa.

  • A second reason for the scarcity of signs is our passionless hearts for the lost, i.e. those people apart from Jesus who are heading for an eternity in hell.

Hell went out of fashion in many Christian circles in the 1960’s (as did heaven) to be replaced by education, social sensitivity and political action.  ‘We are all God’s children’ is the new mantra. Nothing could be more intolerant than to suggest that no one will escape hell who has not been crucified with Christ and thereafter resurrected with him.

Jesus declared that such people who seek after a sign are evil and adulterous. Jesus certainly knew how to excite The Tolerant.

  • A third reason for the scarcity of signs is a failure to model and communicate THE Gospel.

Paul wrote that there is only one Gospel. Those promoting any other gospel (‘which is no gospel at all’) are functioning under a curse! (Gal 1 & 3) And this curse comes not from the devil (which might be prayed off), but is a self-imposed curse sanctioned by God himself.

And [Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover…. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.  (Mark 16: 15, 17-18, 20 ESV — emphasis mine)

God confirms HIS Word with signs.

As we model the ministry of Jesus and proclaim the apostolic Good News, God continually delights with the ways he confirms his Word.

One evening I ministered in a home group in the wretched slum of Sukunanga. Some 30 people – mostly young people – packed into a dimly-lit mud hut the size of a small bedroom. They worshiped Jesus passionately. They prayed with faith. They shared Communion. They gave out of what they do not have. They eagerly received a word about the heart of God for them.

On the way back to town with Ben, Patrick and Geoffrey, Ben suggested we drop by a local hospital to pray for a fellow believer who was very ill. We stopped, entered the hospital and spent some time going form ward to ward until we found Livingston.

His ward was dark, dirty, mosquito-infested and apparently unattended. The small room was crowded with the beds of ten very seriously sick people. The narrow spaces between the beds were filled with attending family members.

Livingston had a life-threatening blood clot in his right leg. He is a soccer star who is otherwise in excellent physical condition. The young man was in considerable pain and could not sit.

He was happy for us to pray for him. As we prayed, the Holy Spirit settled on him. He became very hot and sweated profusely. After a few moments, he raised himself to a seated position and reported that much of the pain had left.

Patrick was encouraged by those results and suggested we offer to pray for everyone in the ward. The team agreed. Patrick announced to the room our offer to pray for all the patients. Immediately, without being directed, all the family members rose, formed a circle, held hands and waited for one of us to pray.

I was asked to lead. As I prayed for the other nine patients, the presence of God came strongly into the room. I wondered if some of us might not be able to stand under the weight of God’s presence.

Our prayer completed, the family members thanked us and we left.

Afterward our team traveled to Kisii for a week. So I didn’t talk with Ben again until we returned to Eldoret nine days later. I was curious to get a report on how Livingston was doing.

“You know, you will be amazed,” Ben stated.  “After we prayed, the young child (who apparently was dying) woke up healed and the parents took him home that evening. The man who had been in the coma for some days woke up and his family took him home. Another critically ill man got out of bed and his family took him home.

“The next morning, the other six patients had also recovered and their families took them home. The day after that, Livingston was healed and went home, too. He is now doing fine.”

God had emptied the entire hospital ward.

Try these things:

Turn off your media.

Deal with your unbelief.

Risk your respectability.

Crawl out of your comfort zone.

Open your heart with mercy to the spiritually lost, the physically sick, the emotionally crushed, the demonized and those hungering for the favor of God.

Drive a stake through your own personal and religious opinions.

DISCERN what God is doing around you.

Having discerned what he is doing, AGREE with Him. Agree with what HE is saying. Agree with what HE is doing.

COOPERATE with him. Stop watching others do the Jesus stuff. Become a full participant. Become an actual disciple. Get busy DOING the MINISTRY OF JESUS along with Jesus (Luke 4:18ff).

Live THE Gospel.

Model THE Gospel.

Do THE Gospel.

Develop a lifestyle of sharing THE Gospel with the lost who God brings across your path.

You might be surprised what you will witness the living Jesus do.

You might even catch a sign or two.

 JESUS SIGHTINGS  FROM KENYA  Moving from Addition to Multiplication

It is an understatement to say the Christians we work with in East Africa are dedicated. Their passion to introduce everyone to Jesus is hot. They work long hours for little notice. Place themselves in harm’s way for the benefit of others. Endure poverty to minister to the poor. Care for hundreds of orphans when they can barely provide for their own children.

And in and through it all, they produce fruit – fruit that lasts:

  • The lost are saved.
  • The sick healed.
  • The demonized freed.
  • The destitute fed, clothed, sheltered and educated.

They are Adding to God’s People daily, but the numbers are working against them.  Africa – like many parts of the world – is growing at such a rate that the best efforts of dedicated men and women seem to be falling behind population curve.

QUESTION:  So what is needed to stay ahead of the curve?

ANSWER:  To move from Adding to Multiplying.

To help them make that transition to Multiplying, we helped host a training event in Kenya last week. An old friend of mine who has spent three decades learning how to empower evangelists and church planters to move from the Addition to the Multiplication trained us.

God providentially made it possible for Bill to be with us to conduct the training. Thirty select evangelists and church planters gathered from several areas of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

The training was simple but transformative. The following are a few things we learned:

  • We should know God’s will for EVERY Christian:  to reach the lost with the Good News of Jesus so that they will escape destruction & enter into eternal LIFE.
  • We should understand that we were created by God to produce PERMANENT fruit:  both the character of Jesus & new believers.
  • Discipleship is not so much the transfer of information as it is being functionally TRAINED in the basics of the Faith.
  • I am responsible to train others to train others to be trainers of that with which I have been trained (2 Timothy 2:2)
  • True LIFE and permanent FRUITFULNESS come from abiding in Christ (John 15:1-18). So every day we ask one another the question believers in China ask each other, “Have you eaten today?”  i.e. Have you been fed yet today with spiritual nourishment from God’s Spirit & Word, and have you had breakfast? We listen & interact with each other’s answer. We make sure everyone has breakfast food, too.
  • Bringing others to Jesus produces JOY – in heaven and in your life.
  • Develop this as a lifestyle:

SEEING what God is doing.

OBEYING what God is saying.

SHARING what God has done and said.

  • Everyone needs a weekly ACTION PLAN.
  • Successful ACTION PLANS run on consistent ACCOUNTABILITY.
  • Look for the PERSONS OF PEACE who will be doorways for God’s salvation to their family, friends and community (Luke 10). Invest your life in them.
  • Train new believers from the moment of salvation – everyone is called by God to be a trainee, a witness and a trainer – the sooner one is empowered to witness and train the better, preferably beginning the day they are born again.
  • The proper training progression:  DEMONSTRATING, ASSISTING, WATCHING & LEAVING.
  • Each ‘generation’ has the responsibility to train the next ‘generation’ of trainers to train the next ‘generation’ of trainers.

Each morning we reported on (1) who we had witnessed to the past day, and (2) who we had taught yesterday’s lesson. Two class members led a passing man to the Lord on the steps of the hotel where the meeting was being held. Other class members led seven others came to Christ during the seminar.

Bill required us to produce daily action plans based on what we were learning and incorporating what Jesus was saying to us. For me, the pieces came together on how to prepare our TRANSFORMING PRAYER orientation materials to train Christian leaders in 43 nations in Africa (where we are invited) to do the ministry of Jesus and to train others to be trainers of the same.

First Africa….

Of course, such an audacious vision is humanly impossible. But as God provides additional, competent team members and finances to carry us forward, I am confident we will enable many of God’s People in Africa to more fully engage and do the ministry of Jesus.

Jesus said, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”  John 4:35 ESV

Or to put it another way, “Millions of people are lying on their beds tonight in pain, crying out to whom they know not.”

But we know the One to whom they are crying out.  They are waiting for us to tell them.

Are you Adding? or

Are you Multiplying?

Don’t wait. Today is all you have.

Today is all that many of them have.

Doug Van Devender & Team

Transforming Prayer

transformingprayer@hotmail.com

 

 

Posted in East Africa Ministry Jan 2013, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

AFRICA ODDS AND ENDS

Interesting and humorous experiences are common when visiting other cultures. Here is a sampling from our recent journey:

THE FLYING CAR

The final Sunday in Kenya I preached and ministered at the Spiritual Life Center in rural Khambiri. When we were finished with prayers, Pastors George and Mary drove me back to town. The route is an agricultural dirt track used by tractors to transport sugar cane from the fields to a nearby mill. The ‘road’ is uneven and extremely rough–hardly suitable for a passenger vehicle.

But this is the only way to town and all George had to drive was a 25-year old Toyota Camry with a kazillion kilometers on the dial. As we banged along at a perilous top speed of 25 mph, the ride became so violent that the tape deck fell out of the dash. (Fortunately I caught it.)

“Yes,” George declared, “this road is very rough. Last week I was late to an out-door meeting so I was driving 50 mph along this stretch…”

“Not possible,” I thought.

“…and my car began to fly!”

“What?”

“Yes, I was talking on my cell phone while also adjusting the tape deck and suddenly my car was flying. You can see where it landed.” He pointed across a deep ditch to an indention in the dense sugar cane.

“Your car jumped the ditch and landed in that cane field?” I was incredulous.

“Ndiyo. Yes. Immediately 300 people surrounded my car. They thought I must be dead. But I was not injured and my car was not damaged.”

“So how did you get the car out of the field?”

“Well, about twenty men picked the car up, carried it over the ditch and set it back on the road. So I went on to the meeting.”

You got’a love it.

REALLY FRESH FOOD

One of the nice things about visiting western Kenya is the nutrition. Menus are somewhat limited and the meals repetitive. But the chickens are free-range. Nearly everything is fresh from the market. Fruits and vegetables are grown in rich volcanic soil. After two weeks in the area, one feels health flowing into one’s body.

And the food tastes…REALLY good.

The freshness of the food was illustrated one morning as we were leaving the hotel on the way to the day’s meeting. We walked past the hotel service entrance where I spied a peddler unloading the trunk of his car before heading for the kitchen. Dangling from each of his hands were six clucking chickens (feet tied together).

It dawned on me, “That’s our supper.”

Doesn’t get any fresher than that.

EXPECTING THE MIRACULOUS

In many religious situations in America the miraculous is little more that something to read about in the Bible or to wonder about while listening to exotic stories from far away mission fields.

So much so, that prayer in the States with a miraculous outcome may actually provoke a serious debate over (1) whether anything supernatural really happened? and/or (2) whether the source of the supposed miracle was divine or demonic? and/or (3) does God even do that stuff anymore?

Not so among God’s People in East Africa. Those who live with Jesus on the cutting-edge of life (evangelizing publicly, sheltering orphans, feeding the poor, etc.) depend on God’s regular intervention in their lives to survive and to ‘stay in the fight’.

So I was not particularly surprised at a prayer request from one of the students in the Bible School. He is from an area in Tanzania where English is little spoken, so his English proficiency was much lower than that of his Kenyan counterparts who had learned fluent English in public school.

“Can you ask God to supernaturally increase my English-proficiency so that the scope of my ministry can immediately broaden?”

Now you might think that to be an absurd request, but I know two ministers in Kenya who grew up on the streets without formal education who did not speak English at the time they got saved. Both were called to ministry early on and both faced serious limitations in training and ministry because of their inability to read and speak English.

In each case, they pleaded their case with God.

In each case, they awoke the next morning speaking basic English, and fluency came quickly thereafter. Today you would never suspect – talking with either of them – that they had not been fully educated in English.

All things are possible with God, it would seem….

So, with that understanding, we prayed.

The Holy Spirit came powerfully on the student. He shook and wept for several minutes as he knelt on the concrete floor with upraised hands. Afterward, he reported that something powerful had moved through him while we prayed.

I saw him two weeks later. I asked about the effect of the prayer.

He reported that there had been an immediate improvement in his English speech and there had been a daily increase in fluency since.

I’m praying for similar help for my ears and tongue (which are linguistically retarded) so that I may better ‘hear’ and ‘speak’ Swahili beyond my current limitations.

All things are possible with God, it would seem

CUSTOMER SERVICE…AFRICAN STYLE

Africa is a blend of the modern and the primitive. Hotels often illustrate this contradiction.

In Eldoret we stay at the same hotel each time. The manager and staff have more or less adopted us after multiple visits. We are welcomed enthusiastically upon arrival.

We know several of the staff by name and we have shared the Gospel or prayed for more than a few.  All that to say, the folks truly do their best to assist us during our stay.

So on Sunday night when I checked into my room, I was delighted to see a new vinyl floor had been laid since my January visit—you know–the smooth high tech flooring with faux wood-grain. This was good. I could enjoy the room without having to wear my shoes all the time.

The bathroom was another matter. The elderly terrazzo floor evidenced years of un-scrubbed use.

And the toilet lacked a seat.   Ah, no seat.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never much liked parking my tush on a bare porcelain toilet, even under the most sanitary conditions—and this wasn’t that.

So, I hiked down to the front desk and explained to the girls that I needed a toilet seat. This provoked quite a discussion until the translation from American English into English English was made, “Oh, you need a toilet COVER.”

Whatever.

So, the order went forth.

On Monday evening we returned from teaching. No toilet ‘cover’.

So I hiked down to the front desk. We went through the discussion again—with the addition of an assistant manager. New order placed.

Tuesday evening. Still no toilet ‘cover’.

So I hiked down to the front desk. We went through the discussion again—adding a manager to the mix. He informed me that their search had determined the hotel did not possess a replacement ‘cover’ that would fit my toilet. Ah, ha.

Our missions motto is, BE FELXIBLE AND ADAPTABLE. So I adapted.

Knowing they had a number of empty rooms, I suggested the manager have a ‘cover’ taken off a similar toilet in an un-occupied room and put on my toilet. He seemed confused by this suggestion (though I offered to make the switch myself if he would give me a second room key and a pair of pliers).

“If I give you a ‘cover’ from another room then I won’t be able to let (rent) the other room.”

True, I agreed, but I reminded him he wouldn’t be able to ‘let’ my room either when I checked out.

“Wouldn’t it be easier for you to pack up and move to another room?” he countered.

I thought not.

“Why don’t you do this: send one of your guys to the store tomorrow and BUY a new ‘cover’ of the correct size? — which you are eventually going to have to do anyway, right?”

We left it at that.

Wednesday evening. No toilet ‘cover’.

So I hiked down to the front desk. We went through the discussion again—with the addition of the maintenance supervisor. I was assured that every effort was being made to purchase a new ‘cover’.

The order was re-affirmed.

Thursday evening. Was I surprised? No toilet ‘cover’.

Then I spied three maintenance men coming down the darkened hallway (lights being kept off much of the time to conserve energy—they’re SO Green in Africa). One had a ‘cover’ hanging around his neck. One carried a handful of tools. And one…one just was.

Anyway, after supper I became the proud renter of my very own, never-used, spotlessly clean, properly-sized, correctly-installed toilet ‘cover’.

However, in the process, the bathroom light had burned out. Of course the maintenance men did not replace it since that required a second maintenance order.

So I hiked down to the front desk and we started the second application process. “Did I know why the light was not working?” they inquired.

“Yes,” I was happy to tell them, “the florescent bulb is trying to light, but the ballast is burned out.” (I knew by the burning electrical smell.)

Friday night. Still no light.

So I hiked down to the front desk. We went through the discussion again—with the addition of an assistant manager who assured me the light would be repaired on Saturday.

After lunch on Saturday I came back to the room to find a ‘fundi’ (technician) sitting in my bathroom with the entire florescent light fixture torn from the wall and disassembled into two dozen pieces scattered around the bathroom. The fundi was peering intently at a wire.

So I hiked down to the front desk to report this unexpected turn of events.

“You really only need to replace the ballast,” I told them. “If you have the part, I can put it in for you—after you reassemble and reattached the three-foot-long light fixture to the wall, of course.”

Not to worry. By the time I would return from supper, the supervisor promised me, I would surely have light.

I returned to my room after supper Saturday night and there was light! A single, uncovered incandescent light bulb sticking out of the hole in the wall.

So I had a new toilet ‘cover’ and a new light bulb just in time to check out of the hotel and head for the meeting in Kakamega.

The hotel staff was quite pleased that they had successfully responded to my needs during the week. I was quite pleased that I had persevered with politeness through both maintenance processes. (Thank you God for emotional healing.)

In the end, the staff still viewed me as a Christian. And in the end, that is what really mattered.

MORE CUSTOMER SERVICE

Most of western Kenya is a high plateau. Eldoret sits at 6900 feet. Moiben–where we had meetings last year–sits at 10,000 feet. Other areas where we have visited range between 5000 and 7000 feet.

So the climate is more temperate than the tropical heat of the Kenya coast. But there is more rain in the west, and therefore many mosquitoes. Along with the mosquitoes come malaria and other serious—even fatal—diseases.

So we make every effort to avoid those parasitic infections. We use OFF when indicated–do not sit outdoors in infested areas–take anti-malarial drugs–and most importantly, do our best to avoid bites while sleeping. Those leisurely attacks are the most deadly.

The hotel windows do not have screens, so the guest has a choice: sleep under a mosquito net or keep the doors and windows closed at all times.

Sleeping under a net is not a great solution. The net prevents ventilation which does not aid restful sleep. And unless you have to discipline to sleep absolutely in the center of the bed, the mosquitoes will bite your arms and legs anyway when they rest against the net during the night.

In Eldoret the rooms are mosquito-free if the room is kept closed. But one’s room will get uncomfortably stuffy during the night which affects one’s rest.

So this time I went prepared. I took along a small fan I purchased at Wal-mart years ago for $8. Unfortunately, I forgot that my small AC converter that changes 240v. to 110v. was burned out. So I couldn’t use the fan when I got there.

Richard had a transformer with him to run his office suite of gadgets he had brought along, so I gave him the fan to use.

So I hiked down to the front desk and asked the girls if they could get me a fan to use during my stay? They looked at me like I had asked to borrow an ostrich for the week. So although an order for a fan was submitted, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t see it before Y3K.

What to do?

A solution presented itself a couple of days later. Mary Bahati graciously offered to loan me one of their large fans for the duration of the trip. She couldn’t understand my desire for a fan (since everyone else in Eldoret was running around in coats and sweaters in the rain), but I assured her it was for a necessary and righteous purpose. So I took it.

The rest of the week was restful under the large oscillating fan atop the four-foot pole-stand. I kept the room closed and only encountered a few mosquitoes which I dispatched to the insect Pit.

I checked out of the hotel at the end of the week carrying the fan:  the motor and blade portion in one hand and the four-foot stand in the other. The staff was quite amused that I was hand-carrying a large fan through Africa.

Mock me they might, but in Kakamega the hotel came with mosquitoes assigned to each room and no windows could be opened. In fact, more would be required than simply keeping the doors and windows closed.

So I hiked down to the front desk and asked the girls if I could have a can of DOOM? DOOM is the Kenya-manufactured bug spray that really works. It’s made from local pyrethium (however you spell that).

The ladies were offended by my request. I don’t know if my offense was adding to their overhead by using DOOM, or because I was obviously trying to avoid sleeping under the net like everyone else, or because I was rudely suggesting their hotel had bugs.

Anyway, I eventually got the DOOM, sprayed the room, hunted down the survivors, cranked up the fan, and slept well without the net on the rock-hard bed .

Wherever we went others helped with our bags, but I myself—taking full responsibility for Mary’s fan—carried the disassembled unit in my own two hands. This provided continual amusement for our African team members and hotel staffers.

But in the end I prevailed. I slept well. Stayed awake while I was teaching. Sent the fan back to Mary without incident. And made it home without fever.

Next time I’ll probably just carry a transformer.

MORE THAN TOURISTS

Short-term mission trips encourage the people who are visited and can be spiritually transformative for participants. But something more sustained is required to accomplish deep, lasting transformation in lives and cultures.

In our case, while we are not residents of the countries we visit, I have ministered in Kenya for more than 31 years (Richard for 24). That has given God the time to develop a message that communicates clearly and goes deep. Transformation of individuals and church cultures occur regularity where we visit.

So, we felt complemented when one leader (during the meeting in Mumias) blurted out to the assembled pastors, “These guys are not tourists!”

In another location a bishop declared, “You are truly Apostles from God!”

When I asked why he thought that to be so, he said, “Because you have worked early to late everyday in Kenya without going to the game park even once!”  I can only imagine what the Apostle Paul might think about that definition of apostleship….

Betty and I originally went to Kenya (instead of to S.E. Asia) in 1980 after I had two ‘prophetic’ dreams.

In the first dream I found myself in Mombasa (I would later discover on the very spot where we would plant our first new church in 1982). In the dream I was talking to an old woman (whom our team would lead to Jesus two years later and deliver from demons on that very spot).

She asked me why I had come to Africa? I told her of my desire to share the Gospel with people in Kenya. She agreed that this was a good reason and then offered me some advice.

“Wazungus (Europeans and Americans) come and go in Africa. If you want to make a lasting contribution, it will take time and continuity. Don’t get in a hurry. Stay around for awhile.” I awoke and we moved to Mombasa for three years.

We have since maintained and developed even more relationships in Kenya. We‘ve made a number of ministry trips to train hundreds of church leaders. And we’ve hosted and resourced a number of leaders during their travels to the States.

It takes time in Africa to build continuity, establish credibility, develop relationships and refine God’s message so that it connects and transforms.

And that might be true here are home, too.

FOREST PRESERVE

There is a national forest preserve near Kambiri which we did not have time to visit. Richard remarked that had we done so–and had that become general knowledge–we would have been downgraded from ‘Apostles’ to ‘Prophets’. So it was just as well.

One of our hosts suggested we stay at the Forest Lodge on our next visit. “There are many unusual animals to see in the preserve. Especially snakes.”

“Snakes…?”

“Oh yes, the area is completely full of snakes. The Rangers will take you on a nature walk through the snake forest and you will see every kind of snake.”

That sounded rather hazardous since Kenya has a couple of dozen species of venomous snakes and several of them are quite aggressive. “Isn’t that dangerous?” I asked.

“Not really. The Rangers will give you a strong-smelling ointment to smear over your body. The snakes don’t like the smell, so they will avoid you.”

I didn’t remember snakes being particularly repelled by smell. “Are you sure?”

“Absolutely. Just don’t stay outdoors more than thirty minutes.”

“Why is that?”

“The smell wears off pretty quickly and then the snakes will rush you.”

I think I’ll stick to the hotel in town….

IT TAKES A TEAM

The Christian faith begins as a personal encounter with God. It develops into meaningful relationship with that same God. It opens to way for participation on one of God’s teams.

We are not in this alone. We can’t get there from here alone.

I think of all the believing family, Christian friends-coworkers-fellow students, teachers, writers, worship leaders and so many others who have spoken God’s truth and life into our lives over the decades. I couldn’t begin to remember and list them all.

I think of the many People of God in Africa who have welcomed us through the years, befriended us, watched out for us, taught us, counseled us, prepared for us, translated for us, transported us, loved us and put up with us. What a team they have been and are becoming.

I think about the many people here in the States who—over the years—have prayed for us, encouraged us, financed us, counseled us and on occasion even participated with us. A God-crew to be sure.

As Darkness comes over our world, we can be confident that God KNOWS who belongs to him. We can certainly KNOW that he is hovering over each one of us.

And just as surely, at the human level, we should KNOW that more than ever, we are going to need the encouragement, support and protection of our team.

Now is a good time to press deeply into devotion to and intimacy with Jesus. Now is a good time to get in tight with those whom God has put on your team.

From here to The End, we’re going to need a strong, effective, courageous TEAM–which includes divine and human members—surrounding us and enabling us to finish strong.

And finishing strong is the goal.

Posted in East Africa Ministry July 2012 | Leave a comment

WEBUYE EMBRACES TRANSFORMING PRAYER

On the final day of the training conference, I (Doug) reviewed the prayer process with the group. Then we did three demonstrations of Transforming Prayer.

 

 

JACOB

Jacob is a 79 year old lay minister and elder in a local church. His presenting issue was his concern for his adult children who seldom came home. “I am concerned that their houses and lands will fall into disrepair.”

“How do you feel about their property falling into disuse?”

“Anxious.”

But as we continued to pray, the deeper feelings emerged, “I am all alone. I am lonely.”

We invited Jesus to speak to Jacob’s feelings and he did, assuring Jacob of God’s presence with Jacob and with his children.

Jacob reported that he no longer felt alone, lonely or anxious. He was smiling when the session closed.

BETTY

Betty is an attractive young woman in her mid 20s. She asked for prayer for her marriage. How do you feel about your marriage?” I feel no love. I am angry at my husband. I have no hope for my marriage.”

As we prayed the story of her life emerged. She left home at age 16 to escape an abusive situation, soon became pregnant and then married “in the wrong way”.  She reported that she felt rejected, unloved, bitter and hopeless.

She told us the group prayer for forgiveness the previous day had deeply affected her. She admitted to God her bitterness and hostility toward her husband who worked all the time and paid her little attention. “I do nothing for him. I do not even wash his clothes!” From the reaction of the group, I took it that this was a bold neglect.

But she had prayed and repented of her anger and resentment. So much so, that she went home and washed his clothes.

When he came home and saw that she had washed his clothes, he sat down with her and for the first time they read the Bible together.

We prayed again and asked the Holy Spirit to speak truth to her about her life and marriage. She reported after listening for several minutes to the Spirit, “I feel loved. Respected. Hopeful. Peaceful.”

In a final prayer Richard asked if God might have a parting gift for her? She said, “The Lord is going to heal my marriage. Then he is going to give me the ability to minister healing to many troubled couples.”

Another satisfied participant.

MARTIN (Part 2)

Martin came forward again for prayer. He told us he went home and did as instructed. After his family went to bed, he did business with Jesus. The Holy Spirit convicted him of anger and unforgiveness. After some time, he was able to forgive everyone on his list and experience relief.

The Holy Spirit then gave us permission to pray for his physical condition.  After several minutes of quiet prayer, he reported his eye had opened enough for him to see.

After a second prayer effort, his eye fully opened, but he reported, “God is healing me, but I have a chocking in my throat.”

We prayed a third time and Martin threw up his hands and began to cry out loudly. After several minutes he became quiet and reported that a great darkness over his life had been driven out and he was finally free. The room erupted in cheers and applause for what God was doing.

The swelling had reduced in Martin’s face, but he was not yet fully healed. We hope his healing will progress until it is complete.

The conference ended on that note.

Pastor Nancy, who had eaten lunch with us each day, was so moved by what she had learned that she thrust her watch into my hands, saying, “Silver and gold I do not have, but such as I have I give you.” I took it to remind me to pray for her and God’s People in Webuye and western Kenya.

With that, we jumped in the Toyota Prado and headed for Eldoret and the airport.

Posted in East Africa Ministry July 2012 | Leave a comment

WEBUYE TESTIMONIES POUR IN

On the second day in Webuye we could not entertain all the people wishing to give testimonies of what God was doing in their lives during the conference. The following are a few highlights:

HELEN INTONYE

The last prayer conference I attended was with Morris Cerillo when I learned to speak in tongues.

In this conference, I have been challenged. I see how we ministers actually lie to cover our ministries.

I was touched by the story of Virginia in Khayega ( a young woman who left the meeting determined to do the ministry of Jesus – on her way home she encountered and prayed for two dying children who were healed).

I am a nurse. I work in a hospital surrounded by hurting women. They need my help as a nurse. I realize I am also there to do the ministry of Jesus!

She told us she had been caring for a boy with severe cerebral malaria (a quite often fatal condition). He asked her if he would ever be able to go back to school? She prayed for him and told him, yes. The next day he got up healed and went to school.

“I WILL do the ministry of Jesus!” she declared.

SENIOR PASTOR EMMANUEL

He was called to ministry at age 23. From that time he was on fire for Jesus 24/7. He feared that if he ever stopped to rest, he would lose the fire. He would quote Scriptures to himself like, “If you put your hand to the plow and look back….”

“So I worked day and night.”  For years he took no days off.

Now I understand even God took a day off after Creation! So I promise to rest one day in every seven. The work belongs to Christ. Jesus – not me –died for the Church.

ALBERT

“I got the same message: Jesus – not me – died for the Church.”

PASTOR NANCY

God bless this ministry. People are not satisfied if we are not available all the time. I am going to train my people and teach them that it is not necessary for me to always be there. God does not share his glory—this should be God doing his work.

I am learning to seek out the reason for sickness before praying (i.e. spiritual or physical causes).

I come from a bitter family deeply into witchcraft. There is no forgiveness. I now understand that when I do not forgive, I open the door to my life for the devil. And with him may come sickness. We fellow ministers need to forgive.

ANTON WASEKE

We ministers look for demons as the cause of human failure. Now I know I can talk (to the person and God) and find out the source of the failure. I have learned that God desires to heal the heart and then the body.

More tomorrow.

 

 

Posted in East Africa Ministry July 2012 | Leave a comment