Another crazy busy wonderful week has gone by and slipped into eternity. The week began with the arrival of three absolutely beautiful teenagers from one family. They really are absolutely beautiful. One boy and two girls. They were brought by the UN because their parents were killed by the LRA. Yes, the LRA is still very, very active in these parts, just 10 miles down the road. In just one week these three are smiling and fitting right in with our children, becoming family. Three others had to leave to go back to their family. They hadn’t lived at home in three years and were so sad to go. There were tears and heartbreak because they love their family here so much.
Another girl managed to escape from the LRA and the UN found her wandering in the jungle, emaciated with slashing wounds all up and down her arms. Her hands do not work and she scoops her food with paralyzed hands. The night she arrived, we bathed her and she was so exhausted that she laid down on the mat and just stared the saddest stare. It pulled at my heart. Only one girl could speak her language, she herself being rescued last year from the horrible clutches of the LRA.
We gathered around her and we laid our hands all over her in a gentle and loving manner and we prayed and sang over her for the next hour. As we prayed her eyes began to close in peace, as if she had finally found rest. We found out that she had to watch her own brother as he was macheted to death and she remained tied to a tree like an animal, raped over and over again. Her eyes tell a thousand nightmares. But we here at Iris know the end from the beginning. We watch children being transformed daily by the love of the Father. There are no rape counselors here. God’s presence truly is in this place. This girl too will be transformed. She will know the love of the Father. Nothing can stop this kind of love.
The Lord continues to speak to me about His grace. He calls us to be carriers of His grace. If we are called to be a light in a dark place, only His grace can carry us there. We cannot go without this. It was by His grace that we were saved and shown new life. It was His wonderful grace that caused His light to then shine in us. We didn’t have to do a thing to receive this grace, this light. We just open ourselves up and He pours in.
It is like a flashlight. There is the bulb and the casing that houses that which belongs inside. A flashlight cannot work without the battery. Alone it is useless. Alone it is a weak shell with nothing but guts inside. God’s grace is the battery that powers us to go where He is calling us. His grace is what powers our light to shine. Jesus told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My POWER is made perfect in weakness.” His grace powers our little lights, our weak shells.
A flashlight does not strive to receive the battery. A flashlight does not work itself up to receive the battery. A flashlight is opened up, exposing the inside, and it just receives the battery. It is only then that it can work. It just receives and the light is clicked on with such little effort and the darkness is ablaze with light! Let the grace of the Lord be hidden in you and you in Him. Rest and open your weak casing and allow Him to power you. His grace abounds if we let Him! It is all sufficient!
This week a special friend came to visit us and stayed for a week. Papa Roland Baker, founder and director of Iris Ministries. He is such a fun man and so full of the Holy Spirit. He lives in the realm of joy. He wakes up happy and goes through his day happy. He knows that our God is a happy God. His two rules for being a missionary are to follow Jesus and have fun! That simple! Even when chaos abounds all round, have fun. Yes, have fun. Get excited when chaos and persecution comes. It is an opportunity to present God. If we aren’t happy Christians then who wants to be one? Even in terrible situations, even when we are sad for a person’s situation, we can still carry a small bit of love and joy to impart. A real smile changes so many things.
This girl who was terribly abused by the LRA, every time I go to her dorm I take her hand and greet her and I smile. I notice that she is starting to smile a little because she is surrounded by love and joy, true joy, which can only be found in knowing the love and peace of Jesus.
There are three babies here, all about 10 months old. I love and hold and play with them all. One of them is so attached to me that even if I just walk by she starts crying because she wants me. She spoke her first word this week. She said, “Kaulina”! She said my name! I never once taught her to say it. The mamas would say my name as I came by and she just picked it up and found a way to call out to me so that I would stop for her, the one. Now, every time she sees me, “Kaulina”. So cool!
Over the last two weeks, many villagers have been burning their fields and getting them ready for planting. I watch the fires and I think about how in the western world, people fear fire because it is not normal to see fields on fire. When fires are seen in the west, the fire department is called, people run to save their possessions, even their very lives. Here, we find fire comforting. We see it as the way to burn off the dead things in a field and with it, bringing new life.
I see how God uses fire to teach us that we must let the fire of His love burn off the dead things in our lives. Instead of trying to save our possessions and our lives, we need to let Him burn in us to kill that which does not bring new life. Last night as I walked the bush path back to our compound at midnight after prayer, I watched this perfect fire in a straight line going up this hill and I was in awe. I lead a Friday night prayer movement here called the Friday Night Furnace. For four hours this fire burned, the entire time of our prayer meeting. It was a controlled burn, boundaries were set, and only those things that were meant to be burned were burned. Everything else was intact and safe.
As I watched the perfect line of fire going up a hill and the top a burning furnace, I saw the fire by night and the cloud by day of God. I saw how He led the Israelites around in the desert, burning off the things of their hearts that were dead. It was a controlled burn. God wants to burn in us, to be a fire controlled by Him, if we would trust Him to consume those dead things and bring new life there. He wants to take us up the holy hill and step into the furnace with Him. Ask for the fire and see what he will do. Let Him set the boundaries and take us up the mountain and watch new life come into those places that we allow Him to burn.
On Thursday we all piled into the giant tipper truck and we went to the dam near our village. People gather there to wash clothes, wash cars, wash themselves, water cattle. We went at 5:00 pm and pulled right up, young boys running out of the water to see what this was. We decided to preach a message of salvation and love and grace and mercy from the deck of the truck and then baptize those who wanted new life. We baptized in a muddy, murky cove in the small spring fed lake. And after we were finished a couple of us dove in and splashed around with the boys and they were so thrilled that these kawajas would jump in the river and swim with them! Such fun! Follow Jesus and have fun! Haha!!
Yesterday I was riding the motorcycle back from town and as I passed a lady on the path, she waved her big machete at me and greeted me with a smile. I laugh at how normal it is to walk along carrying a “panga” here and that there is no fear in me. I walk many places by myself now and am at ease here. Last night I walked by myself in the dark about 1/4th of a mile with no flashlight down the path that goes along the outside of our compound to our church and I was totally peaceful. What freedom.
Last night was the third Friday Night Furnace and the children are asking me early in the day now if we are having it. These children love to pray and worship and they love the Presence of God. The first two nights I felt like I was pushing a dump truck uphill trying to get the people to pray for the things that God put on my spirit. It was hard ground to plow. Well, the third night was breakthrough! I couldn’t get the people to stop praying. I would wait to find a place to shift into the next thing and they just kept crying out, never running out of things to say about our great God. I have noticed a huge change in me. I go for three to four hours, even unto almost losing my voice, never running out of prayer, and probably 98% of it not being in tongues.
God says to open our mouth and He will fill it. In my quiet times with God, I listen more than I talk. He has much to tell me. But when I go to the “Furnace” on Friday nights, there is such a shift, like a real fire burning in me to intercede. Last night there was a shift in us all. It was electrifying. At the end of the night we prayed Isaiah 58, where the true fast that God calls us to is to break the yokes and chains of injustice. I saw a picture of Paul and Silas worshipping God at midnight and the prison doors blowing open. We began to beat the drums, the ancient drums of Africa, and we began to dance and sing with such abandon that we felt the chains falling off of those who have been bound.
We called out the names of all those whom we know to be diagnosed by doctors as critically sick, names from every tribe represented, names from my people in the US, names from the UK and we danced and beat the drums and sang until the captives were set free. One of our boys was in such extreme pain that he was sobbing and doubled over. He never cries and is one of our strongest and happiest boys. This was so not like him. We put him in the middle of the church and laid hands on him and sang over him and within 5 minutes he was set free and walking and dancing!!!! God threw open the doors and set the captives free. All weekend he has been running and playing and working pain free, where the few days before the prayer he was hurting.
The small children, eight nine ten years old, they too pray and dance and sing and believe. They beg me to let them come and join in on Fridays. I cannot say no. The children know the power of God. They believe and they move in His grace. They know that they can lay hands on the sick and that they will recover. They see it all the time. The Lord has been speaking to me so much lately about the term, “children’s equipping center”. We need to empower our children and equip them by encouraging them join us in all that we do in the kingdom of God. We can’t sugar coat it and keep it “sweet” for them. Encourage them to do the real work of the kingdom. They have authority to trample scorpions and cast out demons too, Amen? They are never too young to learn about all things kingdom.
Last night, Saturday night, myself and another missionary from UK, a man, we met with the teenagers and talked about marriage and how to love and respect each other. The culture here says that a woman must submit to a man, even if she is sick and dying, she must still cook and clean and carry water. That’s the culture. We talked about Jesus washing the feet of His bride and how Him being God of the universe did not stop Him from serving His bride. At first the boys said, “This can never happen in our society, we would be mocked.” We then told them that if they didn’t love their wives as God loves the church, then they would not be honoring Him at all. And so the boys are open now at least to changing the way they think about women. Still a lot of work to be done but we have opened the door for progress. At least the children here love each other and serve each other and so they are really a giant step ahead of most in this culture.
Today is Sunday and we went to the Police Training Camp and conducted Sunday morning service with them. Then a man came forward and asked us to pray for him because he felt that he had been marked by Satan to be killed. The man showed us the sole of his foot and there was a number three marked there. It was the strangest thing. We then prayed and got him delivered from demons and we looked at his foot and the marking was completely gone! It was totally amazing! We kept our eyes open and so he didn’t reach down and wipe it away. We learned later that this is not a new thing here in Sudan, the markings. Others say they have seen it before on people.
So, after this miracle of being set free we all walked down to the “baptism” lake and we baptized those who wanted to be baptized, about 16 men I think. Also, two of our very own girls made the decision to be baptized and so it was a special day for us. Then some of us dove in and swan around for a few minutes. Felt so good! Of course about 20 naked little boys jumped in with us and proceeded to have a splash each other party. They loved it! I love the freedom here, simply love it.
There is a small girl at our children’s center whom we rescued from being literally almost dead. She was living in filth and trash and her own feces while her mother was constantly so inebriated that she couldn’t remember to feed her little two year old or bathe her. This little girl has been through some abuse I think because she doesn’t let people hold her and she doesn’t make any eye contact. She is very withdrawn and plays alone much of the time and never really smiles. She is a very sad looking little girl. She arrived just days before I did at the end of January.
Well, she is starting to play with a select few and she adores three of our older boys. She is still reluctant to interact with females. Yesterday she was lying on the ground crying and I had a cookie in my hand for her. She has started taking things from me but still not letting me touch her. She took the cookie from me yesterday and then I just reached down gently and scooped her up and held her close to my body. She didn’t resist and actually leaned into me! We sat this way for a very long time. She was taken away for a quick bathe and came right back to my lap.
Later in the day I saw her playing with two little ones and I went over to where she was and just sat and watched them play. I then played cat and mouse type peek a boo and she actually smiled for the first time ever at me! Then this morning I went right up to her and bent down and picked her up and carried her around and she never resisted and even snuggled comfortably there in my arms. Now, when she cries I can pick her up and she clings to me and stops crying immediately. This is kingdom of heaven love and reality here in this place. His love is softening the rough edges of her childhood, brief as it has been. I love seeing these little ones transformed before our very eyes by the love of God.
My day ended with a one hour walk to a one hour Bible Study fellowship with other NGO’s and then a one hour walk home again. Never thought I would walk so far just to go to a home group meeting J! Oh, and yes I am still battling giant 1 ½ foot lizards in the latrine, chasing mice out of the latrine, battling cockroaches in the latrine and always the big fat juicy flies! And then there are the two frogs and two lizards who live in my outdoor shower. And of course the giant ants that I have to tap dance around every night as I brush my teeth and wash my hands and face.
I did learn about a tree that is growing right outside my front door that I can eat the leaves from. It is called a meringa tree and is loaded with amazing stuff for my immune system and digestive and such. I just go up to it and pull off a bunch of leaves and shove them in my mouth and chew and they taste like salad. I feel like a giraffe though……. Sometimes I can’t even believe the things that I do here…..