Let’s pray for Iran. The events unfolding among the brave people of that nation have the potential to be as history-shaping as the dismantling of the Berlin Wall in 1989. My Persian friends have been telling me for years how the common people of Iran detest the death-hold of the Mullahs. This could be the time of their liberation, and we don’t want to miss the opportunity to stand with them in our prayers.
The kingdom of God means setting at liberty those who are oppressed, (Luke 4:18), and each time we pray “thy kingdom come” we would do well to remember our friends who are suffering under the yoke of religious bondage.
Today I’m told the Romanian church celebrates Pentecost, and after a week in a classroom of young students ranging from orphans and illiterates to journalists and university students here in Targu Mures, (almost sounds like the original disciples!), I’ve been handed the opportunity to “preach” in a nearby Pentecostal church. Preaching isn’t something I’m especially good at, but I’m excited to see what Abba has in store. Some of the young people in this church have been students in the past, so this could be a good chance to encourage them and underscore the role of the Holy Spirit in building His Kingdom .
Tomorrow we’ll start with fresh group of students in Medias, a small town in the center of the country. My friend Zak James, from my home church in Florence, South Carolina, is with me for three weeks, and he’s been a handy helper and encouragement along the way. Thanks for whatever prayers you can spare.
Edo is a delightful older man who works the streets of Sarajevo smiling, shaking people’s hands and selling pens. He greets me like an old friend each time I see him, and invariably I buy one of his inexpensive pens whether I need it or not. (In my book he gets credit for being an entrapreneur, rather than simply begging).
Last week I bumped into him while I was out walking with Sunam and Rebekka. He was smiling, but moving a bit slower than normal. “How are you, Edo?” I asked. “Not good. I have diabetes” he answered. So we prayed for him there on the street, the kind of casual prayer where you talk to Abba as if He were standing next to you, and since we were on the street we kept it short: “God… we know you love Edo. Will you please bless him, strengthen his body, and even heal him?” And then we squeezed his hand and moved on.
A day or so later we met again on the street, grabbing a quick handshake as we passed in opposite directions. Then he turned and called after me. The doctor, it seems, gave him a good report on his insulin levels, and he was all smiles and thumbs-up wanting me to know the good news. I can’t say if whether or not Edo is healed. Diabetes isn’t the kind of thing you know right away, nor the type of thing you mess with. But he saw God take notice of him and answer a prayer for his health. It reminded me that the Kingdom comes with power, and unless we gather our courage and step out in faith we’ll never see His healing hand at work in the crowd.
Just a short note to let my friends know I’m back in Sarajevo again until May 7th. I’ve joined our outreach team from the Kona DTS, and am doing my best to balance reunions with old friends while participating in team activities.
This amazing city is always a painful reminder of what bad religion does to us, drawing circles and pitting insiders against outsiders. And then it bathes itself in rules and rituals that nurture superiority, in the end killing not only the heart, but sometimes even innocent neighbors along the way.
My mission is to point people to the true Jesus who erased the circles and welcomed the masses of sinners, tax collectors, adulterers, prostitutes, drunkards, and Samaritans. A few are receiving the news with gladness. Others continue to defend their own particular circle with a pride that says “Thank God I’m not like those people over there. I fast twice a week, pray every day, and give tithes of all I have.”
Beautiful Sarajevo reminds me of how much I detest the lies and deception that bind us with stocks and chains: lies about God, about others, about ourselves, and even lies to defend lies. Lies always kill. That’s just the way it works: they have not within themselves the nourishment to sustain life.
The truth is, I am exactly like the people I passed today on the street, hopelessly confused and living out of a trembling heart of fear – until I embrace the Truth who invaded human darkness and fought His way through to the other side.
I’m not one to talk about finances. In the fifteen years I’ve been with YWAM God has miraculously provided my needs year after year without having to write monthly support letters and doing the regular fundraising that many of my collegues are accustomed to. I wish all my missionary friends were blessed with the same kind of grace and amazing supportive friends who just seem to hear God at the proper time and contribute to my support.
But we had a financial miracle occur on campus this past week week that merits telling. The University of the Nations has not escaped the convulsions of the economy. Student enrollment is down. Giving is down, and expenses are up. April is a crucial month for us with a $600,000.00 payment due on the campus debt. So our campus leaders went to God for instructions, and His word to them was: (1) take up an offering at the regular Thursday night meeting, (a gathering of YWAMers and local friends that normally draws about five hundred people and brings in a typical offering of around $2,000.00), and (2) challenge our own people to give sacrificially before we invite anyone else to help with the need.
When Loren Cunningham, (our founder), explained the need and invited people to give towards the eight figure total, an offering of over $602,400.00 was collected! We were stunned by God’s provision.
Not long ago God spoke to an outreach team in Europe and told them to go to China with only enough money for part of their living expenses. He told them, “I will provide the remainder of it there.” So with great excitement they arrived in China and used what money they had for ministry, food and accommodations. And when and they got down to their last meal, they prayed and asked God what they should do. One of the young students began chuckling and declared, “God is telling me we’re going to ‘eat’ money.” So after a good laugh, and renewed confidence in God they went to the local bakery to buy a loaf of bread with their last remaining coins.
When they sat down around the table and cut into the bread, they found baked inside a roll of bills that was just the amount they needed for the remaining weeks of their outreach.
The point for me in these two stories is that these unsteady times will require God’s children to be actively listening for his instructions, and living generous, sacrificial lives.
A few of our students watching the breakers.
In the middle of staffing the DTS in Kona, Hawaii, I’ve taken a week off to teach in the Discipleship Training School in Colorado Springs. So this afternoon I’m looking out the window at snow flurries and enjoying a few days of brisk winter weather before I return to Kona in the morning.
The past few weeks have been full of delightful moments of watching young people learn to hear God’s voice, breaking free from fears and addictions, discovering grace, and embracing the adventure of the Kingdom. This week was summed up for me after class yesterday when eighteen year old Alex prayed “Father…. I’m so excited about your kingdom, I can’t even stand still!”
It was a special treat this week to discover that the students I had last fall had returned from their outreach just as I was arriving at the base. So I got to hear some great stories from their times in Cambodia, Thailand, India, Nepal and Morocco: of people who embraced Jesus, children who were clothed and cared for, and prostitutes who left the trade. This is the payoff I live for: seeing radical young disciples mobilized to change the world.
I’ve been negligent with this blog lately, but I’m going to try to do better – even if it’s only a short few lines. Thanks for dropping by.
Two days before Christmas I got a call from a friend asking me to come and staff the justice-focused DTS (Discipleship Training School) in Kona, Hawaii for the next three months. After prayer and relinquishing all the happy expectations I had for this time, I felt like God said, “Go. This is an opportunity I’ve opened for you.” So with only days to prepare, I arrived here on Monday night. It’s been a delightful adventure so far, and I expect to have some great things to report in the coming weeks!
In the meantime I’ve been thinking about how grateful I am for friends like you who faithfully read these entries, pray, support, and converse with me through your comments. You have no idea what a blessing it is to log on and see that some sweet friend has dropped in and left a note of encouragement or some thoughts to chew on. You are part of a small army who keeps me encouraged, supported, and challenged. THANK YOU, (or as they say in Kona “mahalo”), for being a part of this adventure!!
“One individual life may be of priceless value to God’s purposes,
and yours may be that life.”
– Oswald Chambers