Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Missionary Diaries: Miracles On Deck


"He uses our problems for His miracles. This was my first lesson in learning to trust Him completely . . ."
-Corrie Ten Boom


Miracle #1:

TEN years ago, villagers in a small area called Embloma, Kenya, began meeting regularly (Sometimes daily) to request one BIG thing from God . . . to please send missionaries to their remote place of the Africa. They heard the Lord say to ask specifically for 6 American missionaries to come to their village and to light a fire in the hearts of their people for the almighty Creator of heaven and earth! Their people needed hope, love, and inspiration for their future . . .

In month 4 of my World Race, I led a team of 6 Americans to Embloma, Kenya for a months' stay among these exact people!

I tear up even now, thinking of their excitement upon our arrival. We began the month with a car driving as far as it dared to, and then trudging through the dark (our headlamps packed safely away for good keeping for when we might need it, lol), muddy, and very slippery pathway that led through the tall sugar cane and to where we would see a flickering lamp in the doorway of a large mud hut. Home. For 4 weeks, my team and I spent our days, morning to night, fulfilling the dreams and more so, prayers, of a village of people who asked of God for ten years, never giving up on His faithfulness.

My first conversation with one of these God fearing men went like this . . .

Silas: "You are a miracle . . . you know this?"
Me: "What do you mean?"
Silas: "We have prayed faithfully for 10 years that you and your 5 team members would come from America. God answered our prayers and you are here. This is a miracle from a great God!"
Me: "Bwana Asifiwe (Praise the Lord)"
Silas: "Amen!"

I mean, what else do you say when you realize that you literally ARE a miracle to these people that have waited so long for you to come. Also, if you know my story, this is a similar story to the one that caused me to be called into full time ministry anyway. My prayers are coming true, along with theirs. God is so personal. That is that. He proves this regularly! Not to mention that fact that during my darkest years on this earth to date, I had an entire region of African Christians praying for me . . . this fact amazes me and reminds me that God not only is personal but He never leaves us or forsakes us and I have a village of ministered to Africans who will no doubt attest to this truth.

Bwana Asifiwe . . . Amen.

Miracle #2:

Our last night in the sweet Kenyan village I love so dearly, our closest friends (Probably 20 people or so), came to say last greetings and shared with us all of their thanks for us coming. We were of course extremely humbled and couldn’t  thank them enough in return. We spent several hours as each person shared their heart about what the last month had meant to us all! Afterwards, the entire assembly requested to pray over us warrior style (All at once!). The most moving prayers of my life as those who could yelled to God desperately in the best English they could speak, asking Him to move mightily within our hearts, lives, and service. Whooh. As they were praying, randomly God began to speak healing over my knee into my heart. He said, “I’m slowly bringing you healing. Trust me.”

Now, I’m used to hearing God impress certain messages on my heart but this one threw me off. I have consistently worn a brace on my knee during any physical excursions for years! An old dance injury has really caught up to my 27 (almost 28!) year old body. I just live with it, you know? I even have a sweet tan line because of it! Haha! So here I am hearing God basically tell me not to concern myself over it anymore! Hm.

The next day, as we prepare to leave, I am unable to find my knee brace . . . literally, no one could find it and there was never a good reason we found for it to go missing. So trust God I must and that very thing I did! As of this day, the 26th of November, 1 full month later and an entire month of ministry up and down a mountain in Tanzania later, my knee has hurt one time. This is CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There is no doubt in my mind that God is showing off here and I’m going to receive every bit of it and walk in this healing, literally!

Bwana Asifiwe . . . Amen.

Miracle #3:

One week into our ministry in Tanzania, I received an email from our Kenyan host! I love hearing from him and was of course thrilled to remain in contact with him, even as we move on through our Race.
He brought news of yet another miracle!

As I stated above, we did much ministry day after day in Kenya and one of the ways we served was by visiting many, many people in their homes. We would speak with them, ask what their specific needs are and then pray over them and ask God to bless them because of their faith and His faithfulness! Bringing hope and light to dark times was a HUGE part of our mission there.

One lady we prayed for was recently widowed and was one of several wives left abandoned and in need. She mothered many children and not being a favored wife, she had a terribly leaky thatch roof that caused much sickness within. She asked that we pray for provisions for a new roof! We did. Boy did God outdo our thoughts, just like He says He will!

The pastor was emailing me to report that he had met this same lady on the road that day and as she ran to him, she was shouting praises to God! She told him that shortly after we left her hut, someone provided not only the funds for a new roof but an entirely new home for she and her children . . . the pastor was so pleased but absolutely shocked. In this very poverty level poor area, these things never happen. He said, “It’s a miracle!”

Bwana Asifiwe . . .Amen.

Miracle #4:

My first Sunday in church at our new home in Big Bite, Tanzania (Month 5), I sat in church just feeling awkward and uneasy. I was anxious to see God move through my team and I in the lives of those He placed us near but this location was different than our last and it left me wondering when things would really “take off,” so to speak!

Enter a little girl named, “Sifa,” I believe. When we met here days earlier, she was filled with life, as she danced around the swept dirt lawn. Now, as I sat in the service, she came and leaned against my leg, practically lifeless and with no sign of dancing in sight. As soon as I felt her head, I realized the very real problem. Sifa had a terrible fever. Here she was, dressed up for church and leaning on against me unable to tell me what she needed.

I immediately began to pray over this little angel. She needed not just to be held by this M’zungu but a touch from the real Healer. God filled me in that moment with the power of His Spirit and I prayed for this little girl as I had never prayed for anyone in my life. Let me clarify, sickness in an area of Africa like this, is no joke. She needed to be healthy and I began to fight for that very thing!

As I prayed I said, “  . . . God, please let me know You have healed her by giving her the life and energy to dance to the praise music like the other children are!”

My team also laid hands on her as I prayed and there in that service, I witnessed and was a part of another miracle of God.

Sifa began to sweat profusely as we prayed and in a matter of what seemed like minutes, her fever had broken and she began to smile and swat at Diane’s arm as if to say, “Okay, I’m over it.” After about 10 more minutes, Sifa ran to dance with the other children to a God Who had healed her at the hand of the American missionaries. She was healed. I was there. It was a miracle before my own eyes.

Bwana Asifiwe . . . Amen.

Miracle #5:

The very next Sunday, my team and I were joined by 1 of our Squad Leaders and asked to lead the service. As a part of the testimony time, Caleb (SL), shared about some healings he had been a part of in Kenya separate from my team. Afterward, in true African style, the people would not let us leave without prayer for what ailed them. We were happy to pray and ask God to do what He loves to do and that’s to show His kids that He loves them. Some of us prayed and some of us led the people in worship. I was in the latter group! As I sang, “Our God is Greater” at too high of a key and at the top of my lungs, a woman was healed.

When she walked up to the people praying, you could literally see her heart beat going a million miles an hour through her throat. As her heart raced on, she explained that she had a heart disease that caused it to beat too fast. Call me a skeptic but I just have not witnessed that many physical healings in my lifetime and I tend to be the first person to think that God doesn’t do that anymore . . .until I came on the race and have seen it firsthand. I have yet to see a tumor shrink before my eyes or a leg grow in length but I’ve seen a little girl’s fever break at God’s touch and now I’ve seen a woman’s heart stop beating a too rapid of a pace.

You no longer could see her heart beating and when you felt it, it had a normal rhythm for the first time in her life. I won’t deny God of His miracles anymore.

Bwana Asifiwe . . . Amen.

Miracle #6:

Grace. Oh, Grace.

One day, I was entering the house after a Wednesday service and was stopped short by hearing my name called out by our contact. He was holding the hand of a young woman that had a face that looked like stone. For some reason, I immediately wondered if her heart looked the same way.

He explained to me that this woman’s name was “Grace” and that her husband had left she and her 4 children the night before. Then I understood. She was alone, penniless, and scared. I reached out to her and she even felt like ice to my touch. Grace did not speak English so the Pastor translated as Grace told me her story. Her husband had left multiple times, taking money with him every time and promising to invest it and return with more later. Each time, he returned empty handed and with many excuses. This last time, he took everything and said he wasn’t coming back. When she called his cell phone that very day (Everyone in Africa, maybe the world, has a cell phone no matter how poor they are. Strange.), a woman answered and had no idea who she was when she explained. Her husband was living a double life and now he was caught. Grace was desperately hurt.

Grace had ASKED to speak with ME! Why, I wondered? The pastor explained that Grace had come to Jesus as her Lord during the stay of a past World Race team and had only then began to come to church. Grace was asking for the WR Team Leader, hoping to find answers about why on earth, God would let her life fall apart just when she gave it to Him to lead . . . this is when they both were quiet and I was expected to speak . . .
Suddenly, as if I was not myself at all, I began to share the truth of God’s love in such a passionate way that even the Pastor was struggling to keep up with translation. I could not tell you if I had to, what in the world I said to that woman in need. God seriously spoke through me in that moment and I began to pray once again, as I had never before!  Following the close of my fervent prayer, Grace looked up at me for the first time and said, “Asante (Thank you).”

I went inside, knowing that God would take care of Grace.

The next day, I introduced my team to Grace at choir practice and she literally looked like a different person than the day before. We couldn’t communicate but her smile didn’t need translation. I didn’t really get it but accept it I did. It wasn’t until the next Sunday that I became aware of God’s miracle in Grace’s life.

The Pastor left the stage as he saw us enter. He came straight to me with the biggest smile I had seen on him to date. He grabbed my arm and shook it as he said, “Sister, Laulien!!! Grace!!! Her husband came back on Thursday morning!!!! It’s a miracle!!!!” I looked at my team in shock. So that was the difference. I wanted to know more. Call me leary. Call me doubtful. Shoot, just call me Thomas.

When the testimony part of the service began, there was a man that rushed up there and began to shared vibrantly! He was speaking in Swahili but somehow we just knew. We all began to smile. As soon as he sat, the Pastor ran back down off the stage and repeated the arm shaking process! Hahah! He was overjoyed! He said, “Sister, Laulien!! That was Grace’s husband!! He has repented before the whole church and asked for help in marriage counseling and for accountability to never leave again!!”

A few days later, I had seen them in counseling together at the church but still wondered about the details of this return. I did not wonder for long. I hear a knock on my door and the words, “Sister, Laulien! You have visitors!!”

There sat Grace and her husband, Jehosephat.

They were there to thank me for my prayers, declaring it all a miracle. Jehosephat sat there with me, thanking me for requesting his return to God. He described to me what Happened and I must admit to having jumped up and down, shouting, “Bwana Asifiwe!” multiple times!!! Haha! You guys know me J This man had been at the market, selling the charcoal he had bought with the last of their family’s money, determined to live a new life. The money he would make from that much coal was about 1,000,000 tsh. (about $640 usd)! A HUGE amount for an African. At about 11pm, Jehosephat felt a hand upon his chest that he could not see and heard God CLEARLY say to him, “Jehosaphat! Go home!”

And that was that. He dropped his coal (Could not cross back over the border with it) and came home. He walked all night, having already reached a far distance. He arrived Thursday night, empty handed but ready to commit himself back to his family if they would have him. I was then able to lead them in one marriage counseling session (Degree put to use!). I also was able to speak with leaders of the church about their situation and helped them to see what steps would be helpful to lead them in in the future. Before I left, the two were holding hands and praying over each other.

This was nothing of me. This restoration was a miracle.

When I asked the pastor how often a man comes back to the family he has left, he said one word . . . “Never.”
Bwana Asifiwe . . . Amen.

Miracle #7:

Two nights ago, 2 girls and I returned from an 18 hour journey across Tanzania to send off our dear friend back to America for medical treatment for Malaria and Typhoid. She will be well soon and we were so thankful to be able to say, “See ya later.” Little did we know that we would shortly there after, live out a nightmare of a situation and have to call on God for a miracle.

The man who sold us our bus tickets back to our base location said that we would transfer buses in a “big town” called Mambo and then carry on about 3 more hours to Moshi. This seemed much worse than a non stop bus ride but sometimes on the race and when traveling the world, things are not ideal. We pull into Mambo, a dump, and are told there are no busses going out that night . . .at all. We were stuck. It was 9pm or so and there was hardly a woman in sight. What was a sweet trip for a friend turned into a moment of inward panic and outward strength. It also was a moment that called for prayer.

I prayed this prayer, “God, this is a very dangerous moment. The three of us girls, alone at night in this dump of an African town. We need a miracle! Please send us a person that will say, “I’m a Christian and I want to help you.” Then I will know that it is from you and that we will get to Moshi unharmed. I know that You have not brought us this far to leave us stranded and in danger. Thank You God, I know you love us and have this situation under control.”

Almost out of minutes, our first priority was to refill so that we were not stranded AND without a phone. No Airtell minutes available. What? Are you kidding me. As my heart was beginning to flutter, a piki piki (motor bike) driver approached us and unlike most, I immediately liked him. He looked for Airtell minutes for us and then began to ask us our aim. Hesitantly, I began to share with him our predicament. To add to the rest, I also only had 50,000 tsh and so I told him we had 40,000 and looking at his face, we knew that was not enough to get us where we needed to go. As we pondered staying up all night with this man staying as near to us as possible, I asked one more question . . .

Me: “Is there a church that you can take us to to ask for help?”
Him: “No, this is a completely Islamic town. There are no churches. I am a Christian though and Jesus died for me so I will help you now.”

It was a miracle. At that moment, a bus ROARS through town and keeps going! This man, our new brother, jumps into action to formulate a plan to catch this unheard of VERY LATE bus! We pay 5,000 for a taxi to catch the bus, he talks to the conductor and we are allowed to pay 10,000 each to ride on it all the way to Moshi. This leaves 5,000 for a drink each (We had not been able to eat this entire day because of the craziness!) and 1,000 and a prayer to bless our angel man! Lastly 5,000 was spent on the taxi from the bus stop to our host church once in Moshi. We arrived “home” at 2am sleepy, hungry, and covered in gratefulness to our great heavenly Daddy for looking after His 3 daughters in despair. I hope to never repeat any adventure of the sort.
Bwana Asifiwe . . . Amen.

He is a Good God, who gives good gifts! I am yet to be convinced that He is currently raising people from the dead, which I have heard from multiple people since beginning the race but I honestly am at a place in my Race where I don’t even know how shocked I would be to see it happen. God is so big. He is alive.
And He is full of miracles. Miracles On Deck.

Lauren!<><+ (Or “Thomas in process,” if you prefer)

Eph. 3:20-21

(Flag pics by Christian Norris)

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