Tuesday, February 24, 2009

21st February, Mngwangwa

Mary Magdalene. She was a woman from Magdala. We remember her as the woman that first preached Jesus risen from the dead but before that she was the woman who had seven devils…demons. All my life, I have only known seven devils associated with Mary yet…Sunday changed all that.

We were in Mngwangwa for church service with a team from Canada. On our way there we met a group of people whose van had broken down. They had an accordion (which I am still trying to get for Mr Nkhoma), a guitar, tambourines and drums. They were believers on their way to a church service in Kalimbira. We took our group to the service in Mngwangwa (under a tree) and James and I went back for the stranded group. When I returned, the service was in full swing with praises going up.

But, back to the seven devils; mid through worship I heard a sound that was a groan but eerie and demonic. I looked around and saw a lady that was on the ground with another lady laying hands on her. I walked over and was about to pray for her when I realized that the groans were coming from a woman standing. I took her by the hand and drew her away from the meeting, behind some hedges. I began to pray for it was demonic. Her eyes were dark and I felt like I was looking into the eyes of a demon for I could see evil in them. As I prayed, Sidwell Mwale and Mark Funsani came to join me and then after some time Gary (my American brother). Milanzi’s wife also joined us. Together as a team we prayed. I had no sense of time as we prayed and rebuked the demon. It spoke and named itself and we rebuked it and prayed all the more. As we prayed we discovered that as one left, we would begin to contend with another. In all, there were seven demons that left her. At one point she said they were all gone and so we asked her to declare that Jesus was Lord. The deep screeching would return and we would continue to pray. At some point I realized that the service was over because more and more people were passing by (we were on a path).

Eventually, her eyes changed and so did the groan. From the naked ear you would think she was still possessed but God told us that her groan was now of the pain in her heart. She revealed that her husband had found another woman and had a child with her and she was bitter because of it. We led her to Christ and into repentance over harbouring unforgiveness in her heart. As I walked away in the end the sheer exhaustion hit me. I could not even move my hands. We had a meeting that afternoon that I had to teach at but I knew that I would not be able to make it and so the guys agreed to cancel it. I could not believe what had just happened. Yes, I had prayed for the manifestation of the power of God to be seen but when it happens, it always overwhelms you. We had faced seven devils. I had stared into the depths of the dark world and seen evil residing in a person. It was surreal. I felt and still feel like the Holy Spirit had incubated me. How amazing that we can be a part of such incredible things! We can wrestle against principalities and powers, things unseen and in His Name, Jesus, exact the victory that He accomplished on Calvary. What a wonder He is and what a privilege that we can be cut from such an awesome Rock!

What has this left me with? It leaves me with an awe that is like this Presence that will not leave me. It leaves me with a fear that is good, a fear of God, that I ought to be aware of Who He is and the power He wields, that I ought not to get farmiliar with Him and always remember that He commands the oceans, the demons, the trees and man. What I am left with is extended pegs (expectation) and strengthened stakes (faith) to accommodate the infinite possibilities that God has.

Friday, February 20, 2009

18th February 2009, Mgona

Today was one of those, dare I sound like a little girl?...’magical days! In adult words I guess we would call it, anointed, blessed but for me the day happened around me in an awesome grace. We were in Mgona, except it is not the Mgona I have become accustomed to with ministry. Gone are the days of waiting for an hour for people to show up and ministering to 4 or 5 people. One year later and we arrive amidst worship. Soon, and it was soon, we were 95 people, flooding the shed with praise and worship; the grannies (WOW ladies), the pastors, the young men and the women. What a sight it was and how powerful the praise was. I felt like things were happening around me and I was an observer, even of me. Perhaps it was our Father who wanted me to see the expectation and desperation in all those around me to truly appreciate what was happening. I felt small and large all at once. It never gets tired…the Presence of God, I mean, it never gets tired. We end on a note with a granny singing a song “fight for me Jesus, the enemy is too strong for me to overcome on my own”. It was beautiful. In their voices you hear the struggles and the battles lost and won. There is a wealth of wisdom in the shed and I take in all the sights and sounds as the Holy Spirit shows me all that He is doing.

My grandfather is there…aMbewe. The bible tells us that we have this great cloud of witnesses, my grandfather feels like that…a veteran of the faith coming together with the little ones to bless the Lord. Our subject of a continuation from born again…eternal life. We talk about the gift that cost Christ’s life and what it is for it cost His life for us to have it. The gist of our message; a relationship with Jesus…a true, authentic, sweet relationship that transcends religiosity and hypocrisy. Amidst all this God talks to us about harbouring anger in our hearts and unforgiveness and yet…playing church. We make a call for all those who want to freed from the pain of hating and hurting. 7 people come forward and give their heavy burdens over to Christ. 3 others come forward to accept Christ, one to rededicate his life to Christ again, tired of living the Christian yo-yo lifestyle.

In the end, my grandfather comes up to share. He tells us how he is 79 years old and how he has been saved since the age of 17 (he has been a Christian for over 50 years)! When I was 3 years old, he had been saved 30 years already! That blew my mind. Here I was, a baby ‘teaching’ this seasoned man. He told us about how someone tried to kill him by poisoning his food and God made him feel full and so he refused the food that day. They gave the food to the dog and within an hour the dog was dead.
“I knew who had done it and I was very hateful but God told me to forgive. I chose to listen to Him, he was the same God that had saved me from the poison. Some years later the responsible person came forward in a powerful prayer meeting and repented and confessed his sin. This is what this is all about. We need to let God be God. My brothers and sisters, listen to the word our sister has brought. Heed this word. Be transformed, that this community may also be transformed.”

That was when I told him I was his granddaughter and that I always wanted a grandfather in the faith. He smiled. I smiled.

A lady rose to testify that even though she had been born again for some time, she did not know that God spoke and that she could talk to Him and also hear FROM Him in a real way. It was beautiful.

After the meeting was over, most stayed as there was to be a prayer walk that afternoon with a mission team from Canada, claiming Mgona for Jesus. I met with a lady who was brought by Catherine; she needed marriage counseling. It is always funny when I have to counsel someone about their marriage, seeing as I have never been married and the closest I have come was over 10 years ago. Nevertheless, it is not my experience they seek but wisdom from God. Mgona experiences many marital issues as most of the residents are factory workers and they work in shifts. This produces many indiscretions within marriages. She told me that her husband sometimes does not speak to her for months on end. She was hurting. We agreed to meet once a week. I know that the road would be painful but I also know that God is more than able. We talked about changing the prayer from, “God change my husband” to “Father, change my heart.” We talked about forgiving her husband and remembering what it was about him that first touched her heart. Catherine (one of the most amazing women I have ever known) sealed it with this;

“When I first went to Keta, my husband had married second woman and I was devastated, broken. She told me to pray. I told her that every time I wanted to, I would just cry. She said ‘good, crying with God is praying’. That is how my journey began and today I can tell you that God has been good. My husband died a month and a half ago but he died in Christ and now is with Him. He died knowing Jesus. It is about you and how you need to change, to believe, to trust God.”

Looking at Catherine, I realize that all around me the truth of the power of God at work and once again, I am blessed to be that person that gets to experience it through the lives of such amazing people, like Catherine and my new granddaddy. All around me, God is making known His infinite power and abundant grace!

Monday, February 16, 2009

11th February...Mgona

Being back in Mgona is wonderful. This is the home of the gentle spirited Chief Bonongwe, whose wife is the Zone leader for Mgona. This is also the home of Study, the pastor with such a zeal for God and the things of God that it can be seconded to none. We arrive an hour late because of complications at the office with transport. As it is my pet peeve I had to take a few minutes before leaving for Mgona to just soak in the Presence of God. There is nothing like a pissed-off teacher or preacher – it is almost hypocritical. By arrival time we were on point, excited and expectant. Our excitement wavered as we saw the little group of 10 but within minutes it soon grew to 56. Worship in Mgona is always awesome. There is Mr. Phiri, pastor and staff member of SC; he has been there from the beginning. There is also Study, who has a great affinity for Praise. He makes us FEEL the greatness of God.

We are on the salvation series and we tackle the ‘born again’ topic. We talk about how it is not a religious movement, nor is it a church or faction. We bring up John 3/3, John 3/6, 1 Peter 1/22-23 and begin to discuss what it means to be born again and why it is that we must be born again. If the word tells us that we must be born again to see the Kingdom, then we must ask what the Kingdom is and how being born again makes us able to see this Kingdom. We translate the Kingdom of God as ‘God’s way of doing things, God’s system, His rule’ and thus we must be born again to ‘see’ God’s way of doing things, God’s system, God’s rule. We also look at why His way of doing things is best especially since we have been raised in a different kingdom and different way of doing things. It is exciting and powerful and Edward and I find ourselves laughing out loud now and then from the sheer power and excitement of the anointing and the word. We tackle baby water baptism as a means of salvation and doctrine that does not find its root in the Word of God. We speak about being saved and how it is only accessible through Jesus, who is the Word and thus saved through the Word as we accept His free gift. I realize that I am stepping on more than a few toes as we talk about this, emphasizing that the Bible is the ONLY true authority and that all other books are subject to scrutiny and pale in comparison. We put everything and everyone in perspective to the Word. It is our own little form of the book of Hebrews; Jesus (the Word) is greater than the church beliefs, the pastor, the priest, the classes and everything in between. Oh, yes, we tread on more than toes at this point. I think we are now just trampling on whole legs especially as I talk about how I began as a Christian to discover that much of what I had been led to believe never came from the Word of God but rather the traditions of man. But within the wiggling of toes, calves, knees and thighs was the shout of excitement from those to whom the word reached and touched.

In the end we made an alter call to accept Jesus and 8 people came forward. Study leads them all to Christ and we clap over and over again as he reminds us of the magnitude of what is happening. He tells us about the joy that heaven is experiencing and the wonder of the miracle. I can tell that he loves leading people to Christ. Among those being saved was a young boy of about 10 years of age. It was wonderful to hear him speaking his decision out loud. He seemed so serious and determined. Another was a lady who came forward weeping and it was amazing to see such emotion, not just the tears but what they represented. I have never seen someone crying in the communities, except for funerals. It was such a joy to see her shedding tears as she came forward to accept Christ. Later she testified that she was a former Muslim, who had searched and searched but now had found Jesus. Mr. Phiri was overjoyed as he too came from a Muslim background. I was utterly overwhelmed. I had never witnessed Christ and had a Muslim come to Christ…not to my knowledge anyhow. She had previously been prayed for and healed of some form of leprosy but had never given her life over to Jesus. but here she now was... not just accepting His gifts but accepting Him. She spoke of the cross and sang a song about how Jesus was the only one who had carried the cross and how anyone else would have tried to escape it. The room was filled with such joy! Felix and I catch each other’s gaze from across the room. I see the amazement I feel on his face. This is too amazing. I wonder if I will be able to contain all these emotions long enough to get them down on paper. Sitting here and writing, I know that I cannot express the emotion and energy that surged through the feeding shed as she sang. I can only say…How great is our God!

Afterwards there came the speeches and yet not the kind that drone on about nothing. These are moments where several pastors and leaders share their hearts about what has transpired and what God is saying. First off was my new ‘grandfather’. Yes, I have finally found a grandfather. Granddad Mbewe. He is the bishop of ‘Revival church in Mgona and when he stands (even before he speaks) I feel like a little kid because his presence seems to invoke His Presence. I just know that He knows our Father in ways I pray I will yet get to discover. He is tall and regal, and has a booming voice. He talks about the last visit to Mgona and how it was so powerful that he knew that he must come to this meeting and hear from God. It is humbling to hear. He says ‘I just knew that there was still sauce from the last meal’. It feels like a father patting his little girl on the head, not the kind that goes TO the head but the pat that makes everything alright. Next up is Study, who testifies that he sticks to me like glue. There are so many wonderful people we meet in the communities but ever so often I bump into those that are kin…I just feel like they are my brothers. Milanzi is like that and so is Study. He is always at every meeting. He points out that several pastors have come with their wives and the importance of growing together as husband and wife. Five of the 10 pastors present have come with their wives. It is encouraging to see. It speaks to the men beginning to see the value of the women and to recognize the image of God. Chief Bonongwe gently thanks us for honouring his request to return to Mgona and promises that more of the chiefs shall be attending the meetings as he believes that they are needed there for change to take place in Mgona. Another face that is always at the meeting, since the start of last year, is another tall and regal pastor, Mbewe. After the meeting, as people were shaking hands and leaving, he came up to me and began to prophesy. I listened as he spoke to me about what God is doing in me and how I should stay the course because something is happening and that the ex-Muslim lady was proof of that. It was an encouragement but also a warning, to be found faithful and to understand that to whom much is given, much is required. What a wonder to be surrounded by such great fathers of the faith! I am not even sure he knew that he was prophesying. It was only after the first sentence that I received a prompting from the Holy Spirit to pay close attention to what he was saying. I asked Edward if he sensed that it was a prophecy and he acknowledged the fact.

We are all overwhelmed as we sit and await the drinks and biscuits the people of Mgona always buy us after having taken an offering. We speak of it for the next two hours as we wait for James to come and collect us. Both Edward and I realize that the year is one that holds infinite possibilities. For Him, God told Him that he will see impossibilities come to pass in his life and ministry. For me it was…’prayer, Presence, power…infinite possibilities’. I am beginning to see that. I feel like God is moving and that by His grace, He has invited me along for the ride. I just know that Mgona is changing and it is awesome to watch. I cannot pinpoint the exact things that make me believe this but every time we come here, we are reminded that the sleeping giant is arising. This is a slum that holds a population of over 50,000; 50,000 people living the worst possible conditions with disease and hunger all around and we are taking it for Jesus.

We return to Mgona next week Wednesday. Our next meeting is home…Mngwangwa.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Wedesday 4th February,2009 Mbvunguti and Njewa

The return. Back in the swing of things. It was an exciting time, returning to ministry in the community. This year we have decided to minister in new locations…concentrated ministry and replicate what has happened in Mngwangwa in other zones, giving them 4 sessions per month. Our areas, Mbvunguti, Njewa and Mgona. The truth is, I set Mbvunguti against Njewa and was going to make a decision as to which zone to end up ministering in after the initial visit to determine the response. Fortunately and backfiring on my plan, they were both amazing. Mbvunguti was first.

We got stuck…what a joy it was for me as it is the remembrance I have of the early days of last year. Stuck and muddy and wet and serving Jesus. So there we were, out of the car and pushing. The rains have made the road to Mbvunguti extremely difficult but we made it through, barely. The vehicle seemed to want to capsize several times but it hung in the there and so did we.

I was a little afraid of ministering in Mbvunguti. My experience with the area has concluded that there are strongholds that are significantly powerful. In addition I just had the ‘new place’ jitters. Did they want to hear the word? Would they be receptive? And then there’s the famous…will anyone actually show up other than the zone leader and a few volunteers.

They showed up. Sturdy elderly men walked into the shed, followed by several women and some youth. We were meant to have two meetings, one Community and another Pastoral and so I asked who was there for which meeting. I could tell that most were present for the Community meeting, chiefs volunteers and all. Nonetheless, the chiefs opted for everyone to attend that pastoral meeting first and then to have the other meeting. We were off to a great start. I had spent some time creating towards the end of the year developing a ‘salvation series’ and so we begun at the beginning; what is sin and how did it come about? What is death and did Adam and Eve really die when they disobeyed God? There was so much more participation than I had anticipated. Chiefs, leaders and women alike all shared in the teaching. In the end, 10 of the 44 people present gave their lives to Jesus. It was wonderful! Afterward a chief, in his mid to late seventies, came up to us while the Community meeting was taking place. This is the account of what he said:

“I need to share something with you. I have been a part of the ‘Gule Wankulu’ cult (ancestral worship religion) ever since I was a young man. Then I became the head of it in this village. This is a very powerful position. I was the head for most of my adult life until I gave it over to my brother a few years ago. I have also been a part of the African Abraham church, but in all my life I have never heard what I hear today. At first I was skeptical because it was a woman talking and here we pay women no attention (he actually said that). I thought you were here to bring some strange teaching. Yet as I listened I began to understand as it was broken down for us. And then it was broken down some more and I understood more. We are dead so long as we do not have Jesus. He is Life. No one has ever told me that Jesus is Life. No one has ever told me that without Him I was dead. Right now I am going to meet my brother and tell him what I have heard today. I have made a choice and he must too. I am not going to tell him to stop being the head of the Gule. I am just going to tell him what I heard today and he must make a choice as I have, because I received life today.”

This is the recollection I have as best I can recall. It melted my heart. This was why we do this. This man, changed, translated from darkness to light, so touched that he is going forth and preaching the gospel to others. This is why we live…to get the word of God to the unreached and tell them the good news, that Jesus has come and with Him He has brought life! Chief Njobvu was his name (njobvu means elephant). It warmed our hearts as he bid us goodbye because we did not want to leave him, this man, once the most powerful man in the village and now professing Christ. There is certain to be persecution. Once the head of an ancestral religion (one known and embraced by 90% of the community), how then do you now begin to speak of Jesus? This is not just saying He is the son of God but saying He is Life and that without Him, one is dead. As he walked off to seek out his brother we watched and marveled at the incredible power of the gospel. May we never forget that power nor grow familiar to it.

Then it was off to Njewa. The window of the little truck would not go all the way up and so I got soaked driving to Njewa as we encountered a severe burst of rain. We had to drive very slowly as we could not see in front of us. This made us late for Njewa but we found them waiting. 97 people were present to hear the gospel. I was a bit worried about how it would be to minister the exact same word in the same day, only a few hours after ministering it. But God was amazing. His word is alive and His Spirit is amazing. We ministered and it was as if it were new to us. We talked about being dead and how we need life and that Life is Christ. We spoke about the fig leaves we sew to hide our shameful state and how we cannot cover death (religious acts), we cannot pour water on death and think that it will live (baptism). We need Jesus. He is the only one who can bring to life something, SOMEONE once dead! Even as I write I sense the power of God. Jesus alone can fix the state we are in. 8 people stood to confess Christ, among then a young man I knew would be used mightily of God. It was an amazing moment. No matter how often I see this, it is always a wonder, that Jesus can take us out of darkness and place us in His marvelous light. It is a wonder that He can redeem our lives from the pit, draw us out of the miry clay and place our feet on the solid Rock! I think seeing this brings an appreciation of the work of Jesus more and more. Our excitement continued as we returned with prayer and praise on our lips. We prayed all the way back home.

As for me, I was home. Being invited to partner with God is amazing. Me, Keta, messed up most of the time but still He patiently guides me and gives me the privilege of partaking in the spreading of the gospel and the witnessing of the greatest miracle…salvation, over and over again. How blessed am I?

So, welcome to the New Year. I can assure you that this is going to be one incredible journey. Be expectant with me and believe God that we are taking Mbvunguti for Jesus and Njewa for Jesus and Mgona for Jesus! Pray for Chief Njobvu, pray for us.