Beautifully perched beneath the peaks of the Rif mountains, Chefchaouen is one of the prettiest towns in Morocco. Chefchaouen translates as “blue pearl,” and it is indeed a rare, stunning jewel. Chaouen, as most tend to call it, is an artsy, blue-washed mountain village that feels like its own world. The old medina is a mix of Moroccan and Andalucian influence with red-tiled roofs, bright-blue buildings and narrow lanes converging at a restored kasbah.
Chefchaouen was founded in 1471 in the Rif mountains by Jews and Moors fleeing Spain. During the Spanish Inquisition in the late 15th century, many Jews and Muslims chose to flee across the thin Strait of Gibraltar separating Africa from Europe instead of staying and be forced to convert to Christianity. A good portion of these refugees made their way to Chefchaouen. Once there, the Sephardi Jews painted every building and home in the old city cool shades of blue, most likely because it’s the color of divinity in Judaism. It’s a destination known by many as simply the “Blue City.”
We heard a lot of different theories about why Chefchaouen is blue. Some said it was painted blue by the Jews who settled there, others said it repels insects, especially mosquitos, while some just said it represents the color of the sea.
I’m not sure which version is true, but it’s beautiful and very very blue. It’s the color — a gorgeous blue rinse that covers not only Chefchaouen’s houses but its mosques, government buildings, public squares and even its lampposts and trash cans. I officially fell in love with Chefchaouen. I love how quiet and relaxed the city is, and it really is so ridiculously beautiful.
Our guide during the few days we were in Chefchaouen was a Ghomara Berber named Ahmed. We were able to spend a good bit of one-on-one time with him. The subject of religion came up and he began to share some of his personal life and his faith. A humble young Muslim man, Ahmed had always lived in the Rif mountain region and had never traveled anywhere else. He wore a traditional djellaba, a long hooded robe with wide sleeves. He was trilingual, speaking the Ghomara Berber dialect, Arabic, and English. As a means of preserving themselves as a people group, the Ghomara are not permitted to marry outside of their own group. Ahmed was married through an arranged marriage, never having spoken to his wife before the marriage, and had recently celebrated the birth of his first child. A man of strong faith, he shared many of his beliefs, which opened the door for us to share ours with him as well. Bruce asked to pray for him before we parted. I could feel the presence of the Spirit as he prayed. Will you please pray for our new friend, Ahmed, and his family that they may know intimately the living God?
The Berber people, who live in the Chefchaouen region, are a North African people group who were conquered by Muslim invaders in the seventh century. The name Berber, which is derived from the Latin word “barbarian,” was given to them by the Romans in the third century A.D. There are three main subgroups of Berbers in Morocco, each containing several smaller tribes. The Ghomara is one of the smallest tribes. They live in the Moroccan Rif, in the northeastern region of the country. Today, most Berbers refer to themselves as the Imazighen, which means “men of noble origin.”
Although the number of cities is increasing in the Rif area, many of the Berbers still live in homes made of mud brick and stone. Mountain village homes are quite similar. They are usually flat-roofed houses made of stone that has been reinforced with dried mud.
Due to their location in the Rif, the Ghomara Berbers are farmers. They produce and consume large amounts of barley, corn, millet, wheat, and rye. In areas where water is plentiful, vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, squash, peppers, and potatoes are grown. Chickens, goats, and sheep are also raised. This supplemental food source provides milk, eggs, butter, and meat.
The men work in the fields, herd the animals, and hunt, while the women do the housework and care for the children. The women only help the men in the fields during harvest time, when they take the newly cut grain to the threshing floor.
The Ghomara, like other Berbers, live in a society that is male-dominated. The line of descent is traced through the fathers and all inheritances are passed down through the males.
Please Pray for the Ghomara Berbers:
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will break up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Pray that the Lord will call people to Morocco to share with the Ghomara Berber.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of Ghomara Berbers that they may be receptive to the Living God..
Karen and Bruce Schagunn
Hello Everyone, Sahara Desert, Morocco
Our three-week adventure in Morocco has come to an end. We are home now, but there is still much we as believers can do to impact that nation. Your prayers are definitely needed.
To begin with our adventure in the Sahara entailed a 3 hour camel ride into the desert where we camped out in Berber tents. I have to admit Bruce and I were a bit sore the next few days. I can’t even imagine how the Magi journeyed so far and so long to attend Jesus’ birth. Let’s just say that even though it’s a small-scale view, I have a somewhat up close and personal understanding of what they might have endured.
However, sharing with our new Berber friends was indeed a highlight of our trip. The Berbers are an unreached people group and have weighed heavily on our hearts since we first learned of them 10 years ago in our Perspectives course. It’s truly amazing how God opened the doors all throughout the trip so that we might have personal encounters with Berbers. How faithful is He in answering our prayers! So who are the Berbers of the Sahara?
The Sahara, with 3.5 million square miles, is the largest “hot” desert in the world. The Berbers appeared on the scene at the dawn of the Sahara’s history. They are the original inhabitants of North Africa and occupied the region long before the arrival of the Arabs who brought with them their language, Arabic, and their religion, Islam,
The lowland desert Berbers are generally nomadic. Small groups consisting of medium or large extended families are found all across the Sahara. Desert Berbers live a very different lifestyle compared to their mountain brethren. Being nomadic, they move constantly across national borders. International boundary laws mean little to them as they follow the natural seasonal cycle of grazing, water and shelter. These people are born to move under the open sky and across unlimited horizons with their flocks of sheep, goats, and camels. Their wandering nomadic lifestyle is central to their way of life. Families subsist on goat milk, bread, dates, barley, couscous, mint tea, and butchered sheep, goats and sometimes camels. Their timetable is according to the sun, moon and the rare occurrence of rain.
In the Old Testament you get the impression that God has a special interest in those who wander around in deserts looking after their animals. It is not just the experience of Abraham after God called him and his family out of the advanced city of Ur. Right from the beginning of Genesis, the Book of Beginnings, it appears as if the nomadic experience was God’s preferred way of life for all peoples.
It isn’t so much that God favors nomads, but it appears that he is able to speak to men and women much more easily in desert places than in the hustle and bustle of the city. In the desert, it is impossible to ignore God; in fact, I doubt that you will ever meet a nomad who does not have a high view of a God who sends rain, abundance, and health. Notwithstanding, they may still spend much of their time and money trying to appease the bad gods, demons, or jinns (as they are referred to by Muslims), or by trying to escape the curses of enemies. And they might not have heard yet of the power of the Lord Jesus, the one who has defeated all these evil forces, and who can bring them to the good God. It is because of the saving power of Jesus that Christianity is so relevant to nomads. If we are prepared to enter their world of relationships, it will require we prioritize people over buildings, projects and programs. The other great advantage to entering their world is the nomadic emphasis on hospitality—when you bow your head and enter the tent, you are welcomed to stay. This common depiction of nomadic hospitality appears in Genesis 18:1–8 when “Abraham was sitting at the door of his tent in the heat of the day.” Despite the heat, when “he saw three men standing nearby he hurried to meet them and bowed low to the ground.” His gracious salutation and invitation to rest under a tree while water was brought to wash their feet are all normal traditions in most nomadic societies. Abraham’s seemingly minimal offer to get them something to eat led to great efforts on the part of his wife and servants to bake bread and to kill and cook a choice calf from the herd. Much later would come the generous feast of curds and milk and well-cooked calf veal, which anyone familiar with nomadic hospitality will appreciate.
The middle chapters of the book of Genesis (chapters 23–37) are extremely interesting to most nomadic people, as they can so readily identify with the experiences of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Whether they are literate or not, all nomads are oral learners and they love stories, especially those that feature animals, deserts, and wells. However, very few nomadic peoples take much trouble to bury their wives or even remember them. That is why the story of the death and burial of Sarah is so impressive to nomadic people.
Even more interesting to nomads who have camels is the story where Abraham sends his trusted chief servant, Eliezer, to get a wife for his son Isaac. Eliezer had ten camels and many valuable gifts and clothes to carry and protect. The most fascinating part of this story is when the caravan arrives at the precise well where God’s chosen wife for Isaac would make her appearance. As a shepherdess, she came to get water for her sheep. Even more impressive to a camel herder is the offer that Rebekah made to Eliezer: she did not just give him water to drink, but also drew water for his camels until they had finished drinking. If his camels had traveled for ten days, as seems likely given the distance to Haran, they each would drink about thirty gallons of water. The scripture says explicitly that the camels did drink all they wanted “until they were finished.” The ten camels could have consumed as much as three hundred gallons of water—about three thousand pounds. The scripture also says that she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. (Gen. 24:20)
It is no wonder that Eliezer was impressed with this young lady, who was also described as “very beautiful.” Her quickness was necessary since a camel can drink those thirty gallons in seven minutes!
This story is so impressive that it is recorded twice in this chapter, as Eliezer recounts it again for Rebekah’s family that night in their house where they were offered true nomad hospitality. Finally, the fact that deserts continue to have an important purpose in the development of strong leaders in the New Testament as well as the Old Testament brings us again to a certain conclusion: it’s not a nomadic lifestyle that is so valuable in learning about the nature and power of God, as it is the outcome of having lived a nomadic existence in the desert. That is where the rigors of daily survival concentrate the attention on the grandeur of empty space and the immensity of the heavens at night. This is presumably why certain key figures in the New Testament were sent into a desert or chose to spend time there in solitude. John the Baptist, Jesus himself, and the apostle Paul found the desert a threshold for new ministry.
Examples throughout the Bible indicate that we are meant to be a pilgrim people, traveling lightly through what is still a beautiful world, but alien to us in its present unredeemed state. We are pilgrims moving to a wonderful and assured destiny, but on the way there, as long as we are on the earth, we want to be available to do the work of Him who sent us.
Please pray for the Berbers of the Sahara; nomads surrounded by vast empty space and under the immense heavens of a loving Father.
May they see the face of Jesus and may their hearts be open to Him.
Father break our hearts for your lost people.
May we keep our eyes fixed on You alone.
May we live as pilgrim people, traveling lightly through this world.
May we walk as does the nomad.
Karen and Bruce Schagunn
Recently on our trip to Ethiopia I was invited to speak at a huge church (1000 members) and to share the vision of Indestructible Daughters that God has laid on my heart. It is a message of unity for men and women using their gifts together in the fullness of God for His ultimate glory. It is His message that is touching the hearts of women and men to not shrink back from hindrances dictated by systems,and to work in power together to complete the work God has given us to do…Isaiah 52:2 “Free the chains from your neck oh captive daughter.” Walk in the fullness of God!
I have been speaking this message only to women but lately God continues to position me with more opportunity to share His vision with men and women alike. Seeing their faces and watching men bless their wives with freedom to be all they can be through Christ is overwhelming.
After sharing and teaching at a church planters training in a very sensitive area in another city of Ethiopia near the Somalian border, several men shared how convicted they were and how they plan to empower and encourage their wives, sisters, mothers, and daughters to use the gifting God has planted in them to the fullest. Bruce introduced me and shared about gifting through God and the differences in our gifts and how we minister together. Even more amazing is that this was a room of men sharing in a very sensitive area of Ethiopia. The fact that they would receive such a teaching and then declare it publicly could only be God! He is the author of vision. He is the author of unity. May we all work together as His children, in full authority for the glory of God!
Please pray for these men and women. May their power together multiply to fulfill the work of the kingdom! Blessings on Ethiopia, blessings on the nations of God!
Please keep us in your prayers as we have you in our prayers also.
My husband and I just returned from mission in Croatia, Greece, Turkey, and along the Syrian border. We saw hundreds of refugees everywhere we went; the parks, the subway stations, the alley ways, everywhere. Recently the media has responded with signs springing up in the news and on the internet saying …”Christians walk on water while Muslim children drown,” with the corpse of a small child washed up on the beach printed on those signs as well.
I thought to myself, is this how we want the faith of our Father to be viewed across the world? Those of us outside Europe are watching the unbelievable images of the Keleti train station in Budapest, the corpse of a toddler washed up on a Turkish beach, the desperate Syrian families chancing their lives on a night trip to the Greek islands — and we keep being told this is a European problem.
The Syrian civil war has created more than four million refugees. The United States has taken in about 1,500 of them. The United States and its allies are at war with the Islamic State in Syria — fine, everyone agrees they are a threat — but don’t we have some responsibility toward the refugees fleeing the combat? If we’ve been arming Syrian rebels, shouldn’t we also be helping the people trying to get out of their way? If we’ve failed to broker peace in Syria, can’t we help the people who can’t wait for peace any longer? Leaders and governments aren’t acting because no one back home is putting any pressure on them. Now, thanks to heart-sickening photographs, let’s hope the pressure grows.If governments won’t help refugees escape Syria, smugglers and human traffickers will, and the deadly toll will rise.
What’s holding back sympathy for the Syrians? They’ve been barrel-bombed in Aleppo by their own regime, they’ve been tortured, kidnapped and massacred by miscellaneous jihadis and opposition militias. They’ve been in refugee camps for years, waiting for the “the international community” to come to their aid.
What must Syrians, camped on the streets and parks of Greece, Turkey and other nations, be thinking of all the fine rhetoric about our christianity, human rights and refugee protection? May God break our hearts for these people. May we be filled with God’s love and generosity towards others. May we give freely and generously for the glory of God’s kingdom rather than our own personal kingdom. However, if mercy, compassion and generosity won’t change us , maybe prudence and reverent fear of God might. May God help us and forgive us for our indifference.May he mobilize us to intervene on their behalf and to acknowledge His word…”For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.” Matt 25:35 “Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon…and your life will be like a well-watered garden whose waters never fail.”Isaiah 58.
A young boy in Antakya(Antioch) in front of St Peter’s, the first Christian church, mentioned in the book of Acts
Our guides and new friends…blessings on them and their families and friends still in Aleppo, Syria…may God protect them…
Our experience in Yirgalem, Ethiopia was both memorable and life-changing. Traveling from the city of Awassa, we proceeded over rugged dirt roads and traveled through places where there were no roads to reach our destination.
We spent the night in huts and saw exotic birds with enormous white bills and Abyssinian black-and-white monkeys frolicking among the branches of coffee trees. The jungle surrounding our hut was lush and beautiful to behold. Rolling hills completely covered by thick vegetation gave the landscape a rich, intensely green coat.
The morning after our arrival, as the sun began to rise, each of us were provided canes to assist in our hike into the jungle passing hyena dens and an occasional villager along the way.
We finally reached a village with many small huts encircling the area. The villagers primarily lived in mud and bamboo huts with hard mud floors. During our visit we met a lady named Almaz who invited us into her home. Surprisingly, her livestock, a cow and a goat, remained inside the family hut as well. Her cow was positioned so that its droppings would drain out from under the hut to be used in their garden as fertilizer.
Behind the hut Almaz showed us what they call, “false banana plants.” We then proceeded to watch her from beginning to end, as she made a sort of meal from the plants. It was an amazing process! She literally used a type of scraper as well as her feet to scrap the filling from the plants. The filling was then wrapped in the leaves and would be left to ferment for many days. After the initial part of the demonstration, Almaz took a bundle that had already been fermented and unwrapped it. The filling was now much drier and through rubbing and kneading, it was transformed into a kind of meal that was similar to a corn meal. From this substance she made a small bread cake, cooked over a fire, and served it to each of us. It reminded me of a salty corn tortilla and was quite tasty.
This dear lady, Almaz, who had basically nothing to give, was essentially giving all she had to us. The experience was deeply moving. I then asked if we could pray for Almaz and her family and she followed by asking to pray for us as well. I fell to my knees in humility in response to her generous gift of prayer. It was so very humbling. She stated that she was a believer and that she knew Jesus as savior. She said that God had certainly come to visit her house that day through us. Then she prayed that God would give back to us a blessing in return for our prayers for them. She told the Lord that she had nothing to give us in return; no gift to give for the great blessing our presence had brought to her family. She prayed for our safe travels as well using translators to translate from her tribal language to Ahmaric and then to English.
We left Almaz and her family that day, full in spirit, and overwhelmed by the prayers from our visit that morning. As we hiked back to our site, we passed the tallest avocado trees I have ever seen. They truly seemed to reach to the heavens. Surprisingly, at the tops of the trees were children harvesting avocados and tossing them down to the ground for market. Before leaving we bought a few of the avocados from one of the children. Definitely organic! The best I had ever tasted.
We returned to the site for freshly made coffee and an elaborate coffee ceremony traditional for the culture.
That evening we sat around a campfire and actually saw many vultures and hyenas on the other side of a protective fence. We ate from fresh honeycomb and Ethiopian teammates shared childhood stories of hyenas, black mambas and of life in their villages from long ago. My mind was totally aflame with vivid, colorful pictures of days gone by. Beyond the firelight my eyes focused on the jungle, taking in the breadth of it. New revelation settled within me bringing a much deeper appreciation of the culture and the lives of the beautiful people of Ethiopia.
At night in the jungles of Ethiopia, monkeys cry aloud in the darkness and exotic birds shrill throughout the night. Hyenas tread the jungle floor howling, eyes aglow in the night scavenging prey to satisfy their hunger. Black mambas slither swiftly through the vegetation while vultures finish the remains of the day. A jungle is an unruly space outside the control of civilization. The word “jungle” itself carries connotations of an untamed and uncontrollable nature. A jungle signifies isolation from civilization, and frequently evokes emotions of intimidation, fear, confusion, and powerlessness. Interestingly, the Lord referred to “a jungle” in His word as He challenged Jeremiah’s faith.
In Jeremiah 12, Jeremiah is complaining of his struggles before God. In verse 5 the Lord rebukes Jeremiah’s impatience, while leading him into a deeper revelation of trials as a natural part of our walk with God. The Lord essentially was challenging Jeremiah as He challenges all believers to strengthen themselves for the battles ahead. He is challenging us as well to continually train and be ready to confront the enemy in the authority and power we have been given through Christ.
God replies to Jeremiah’s complaints in Jeremiah 12:5:
“If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you,
how will you compete with horses?
And if in a safe land you are so trusting,
what will you do in the jungle (thicket )of the Jordan?
At one time or another, we have all experienced long stretches of uneventful days in our lives. And then, without warning, some personal crisis breaks on the scene, demanding more of us than we could possibly imagine. Suddenly, we are no longer racing with men, so to speak. Our race seems drastically increased as if we are racing against horses, huge opposing forces in our lives. Previously our daily lives had likened to a foot race, challenging us, yet still requiring only one step or leap at a time. Now the race accelerates against greater odds and we begin to flounder and get swept away by its force. In our “safe” land, which is whatever we describe or believe to be “safe”, we can easily have a tendency to wrap ourselves in self-sufficiency. Then, unexpectedly, we are interrupted by extreme circumstances, some as bizarre as earthquakes, tornadoes, and terrorists, and others as devastating as disease or death. All at once we find our manageable lives lost and entangled in a jungle of fear and despair. The scripture describes this fear-filled ‘jungle’ experience quite well, referring to the jungle of the Jordan, where treacherous lions roamed along the riverbanks devouring their prey.
So what is God’s response to the prophet in Jeremiah 12:5? He is essentially rebuking and challenging Jeremiah to move beyond the typical footrace of men and to step forth in his authority as a son of the King. Jeremiah 12:5 is challenging every believer to build himself up in the power of the Lord. He is encouraging us to rise to His call, and to reign as warriors for His kingdom glory.
Deep in the jungles of Ethiopia, the little lady, Almaz, exuded a peace and an inner calm in spite of the trials and difficulties in her life. Jesus had become her life, her ambition and her all. Despite their mud floor hut, lack of food, clothing, medical support, insurance, toys or technology, the warm, happy smiles of her family greeted us and lovingly embraced us. They smiled and laughed to the glory of God. Ironically, I, who had come to minister, was ministered to in turn. Almas’ inner strength challenged me to “ beat my body and bring it into submission, lest by any means, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disapproved.”(1 Corinthians 9:27)
Am I truly a woman who confronts, through Christ, the fears and challenges of the jungles of life? …
Oh how I pray it may be so…
May it be so for us all …in Jesus name…
Father, I pray that we would be people of your strength and your power who can compete with horses and stand strong in the heart of the jungle when the enemy tries to oppress and entangle us. May we walk in the discipline of your word and thwart attacks with the power of your word. May we march to your call bringing our body, spiritually, physically and emotionally into submission to the power and authority you have given to each of us who are your children. Father, we pray blessings on Almaz and her family. May you raise them up for your glory. May a wave of your spirit wash across Ethiopia bringing each of them to the saving grace of Jesus Christ. May bondages be broken and the unreached people groups of this nation rise up and call you blessed Father, living God, Messiah!
Amen and amen…
Why did my husband and I do a month long mission in Ethiopia and Kenya? And why do we feel the urgency to maintain momentum for mission whether we are in the U.S. or across the world?
Mission is a full time job both locally and abroad. Missionaries who think they are going overseas to do a great work for Jesus intrigue me. After all, we are merely participating in the work God is already doing. Of course, all our friends at home will tell us what a great and wonderful thing we are doing. Then WHAM! We come face-to-face overseas with all our inadequacies and weaknesses. We realize how much we are actually going to have to depend on God to see something accomplished. We also realize that being stretched physically, emotionally, and spiritually as well as facing a new culture, language, and living situation is both challenging and difficult. Being a missionary is not about being superhuman and accomplishing a long list each day. It’s about trust, obedience, and hearing the Master’s voice.
Wherever we are living right now, we are in the midst of a battle. As Christians we need to understand the nature of that battle so that we can be victorious over our enemy. When we cross into another culture where Satan has built strongholds for centuries and where cultural cues vary, the battle looks different. However, our victory over the powers of darkness is in Christ alone. Mission is sometimes a huge challenge. And yet, seeds will be planted, and ultimately, Jesus is faithful to complete His work. Our prayers of intercession do not simply begin and end with a mission trip. We are to “pray without ceasing…..for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
While touring Ethiopia our team visited a recently planted church for an unreached people group. Barely standing with its eucalyptus branch frame covered in corrugated metal, a small group of people from the Oroma tribe had congregated before a young zealous Christian pastor. The Oromos are the largest ethno-linguistic group in Ethiopia (34.5% of the population). Most rural Oromo, 80% of Oromo population, retain Animist beliefs. However, it has been said that some Oromo wear Christianity and Islam like clothing over their traditional beliefs. They may claim a religion to enjoy the privileges of that religion, however, they do not practice the religion in actuality. Animism is the belief that all things have a spirit or soul, including animals, plants, rivers, mountains, stars, the moon, and the sun. Each being is considered a spirit that can offer help or harm to humans. As such, spirits must either be worshiped or appeased. Animists offer sacrifices, prayers, dances, or other forms of devotions to these spirits in hopes of blessing upon areas of life (crops, health, fertility, etc.) or for protection from harm.
Animism has been practiced since ancient times and is often mentioned in the Bible. The Israelites, for example, were commanded to not follow the practices of the nations around them who followed other gods. The Egyptians who enslaved Israel prior to their wilderness journey followed many deities as animists. In Daniel, the people worshiped “the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone” (Daniel 5:4). The New Testament also includes accounts of people who worshiped idols and other inanimate objects. In 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 the apostle Paul teaches,
“Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that ‘an idol has no real existence,’ and that ‘there is no God but one.’ For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”
Animism has been practiced for generations by the Oromo, therefore what impact could our small team have in demolishing such a rooted stronghold. Very little I am sure without the intervention of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. Traveling two hours through the rolling hills and countryside of Ethiopia in two four wheel drive pickup trucks, we made roads where there were no roads, crossed rivers, and climbed embankments to reach this recently planted church.
Carting a newly carved church pulpit, the pickup truck jostled and shook as we ventured forth. There was an excitement as we arrived; people from across the world, from California had come to visit and to share the gospel with them. We were humbled by their celebratory welcome to each of us as if our presence was worthy of such expression.
The young pastor greeted us, and proudly welcomed us to his small newly constructed church. It was necessary to translate throughout the meeting in three languages; English, Amharic(the primary language of Ethiopia) and Oromo. During his opening message the young pastor shared how he had laid out 10 stones on the ground and had prayed daily that those 10 stones would eventually turn into 10 people and that a church body would spring forth and multiply.
Now as he stood before his newly carved pulpit and looked out upon his small flock of 30-35 people, he gave thanks and glory to God for His grace in honoring those prayers. Joyously, the people began to worship God through song and praise. Marvelous to behold, we all sang in our different languages exalting the name of Jesus and the blessings He had bestowed upon this church and on each of us in turn.
Following the praise, my husband presented a message, a teaching about Jacob and the removal of the idols (Genesis 35). Rooted in Animism, his message deeply struck the hearts of the Oromo people as they were encouraged to lay aside their idols and accept Christ as their Savior. It was a heartfelt message that greatly moved the hearts of the people.
Following his teaching, I delivered a message on the power and the glory of God, and our identity in Him. “As He is so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). Here God is commanding us and basically saying, the authority to free ourselves rests in us. Why would He say that? Why is that true? Because the Spirit of God is in us and we have been given all authority through Him to serve and bless the people of this world. This passage defines who we are in Christ and the equity of that power. He has equipped each of us with unlimited power, wisdom, and gifting to fulfill His mission.
As I completed the teaching, my husband joined me at the altar, as we invited the people to come forward for prayer. Almost every individual came forth and we laid hands on them and prayed. Several accepted Christ, recommitted their lives to Christ, or prayed for more revelation of God and His power in their lives. Some came requesting prayers for healing. One young woman was set free from demonic forces through deliverance as two other pastors joined along side us to tear down forces of darkness. The young woman had had a huge swelling on one side of her stomach that miraculously left as we interceded in prayer for her. Amazingly I saw and felt her stomach shrink as the word of God penetrated her body, healing and redeeming this young woman for His kingdom glory.
Following the service we visited the pastor’s one room home a short distance from the church. As the young couple sat on their bed on the floor, heads bowed, we all prayed the blessings and power of God upon their ministry and their lives. It was incredibly moving.
A relationship with Christ will never be founded in a system like Animism or in any other system across the seas. Nor will it be found in the U.S. within our own “religious systems”. Systems bind and hinder the flow of the Gospel. Of the 4.83 billion people in the world, 2.97 billion have never been reached by the gospel of Christ. Within that count are 8105 different people groups, 5539 being unreached people groups. An unreached people group refers to an ethnic group without an indigenous, self-propagating Christian church movement.In effect 63.4% have never experienced the joy and peace of knowing Christ our Lord. Within these people groups are many religions, some are well-known religions while others are tribal religions dating back centuries. Man-made religions all have the same identifiable imprint; they consist of what people must “DO”. They are made up of contrived elaborate systems, duties to be carried out, and ceremonies to be observed.
Systems only offer swimming lessons to lost, desperate people drowning in a sea of pain. Jesus dived into that sea in spite of the system. Unhindered, without fear, He walked forth speaking boldly the truth of God’s word. He didn’t condemn people.He didn’t raise up an army of protesters. He didn’t send out hate letters to the Pharisees or post rude, despicable comments on Facebook. He simply spoke truth and His Father’s truth prevailed.However, truth is often heavy and therefore, few people tend to carry it. Jesus carried truth through His Father and it blazed forth across nations. Blaise Pascal stated that “once your soul has been enlarged by a truth, it can never return to its original size.” How very true that statement is. Daniel, while in captivity, set himself apart in God’s truth and distinguished himself from the Babylonian system. In continuous prayer he rallied a war in the spirit that eventually led to a huge break in a monumental religious system. Following God’s rescue of Daniel in the lion’s den, king Darius wrote to all the lands and the peoples in the many kingdoms under his rule saying:
“May peace be given to you all abundantly! I make a law that everywhere among my kingdoms men fear and worship the Lord God of Daniel; for he is the living God, above all other gods, who only can save men.” And Daniel stood beside king Darius until the end of his reign, and afterward while Cyrus the Persian was king over all the lands.
What an earth shattering break in a system! Religion is something you carry, but Christianity carries you. Reinhard Bonnke, a noted evangelist, stated that today there are many laws about this and that.The “that” being religion. But Christianity is totally different from “that”. It is not a system of religious observances. It consists of “what God does for and through us.” Jesus frees people while systems have a tendency to bind and hinder people. God says, “Listen to me, O house of Jacob, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried you since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
Religious systems are not run by God but by false gods. False gods need to be carried, but the God of the Bible carries His people, loves His people and sustains them for eternity.
Please join me in prayer:
Father in heaven, please bless the Oromo people and demolish the stronghold of Animism and any other stronghold present in their lives. Father we ask your blessing on the young pastor and his wife as they guide and direct, by your Spirit, this fledging church plant that you, yourself, have ordained. May this body of believers grow, flourish and multiply by your power and strength. Father we pray healing and health against disease, lack of food and polluted water sources. May you intervene and meet all their needs according to your riches in glory. We thank you Father for the Oromo people and pray the blessings of your kingdom upon them.
Father, we also call upon your awesome power to tear down religious systems of ritual, duty, and oppression. Demolish the systems that hinder and bind, and loose your people into full relationship with You. May we be bound only to You for all eternity.
In Jesus name we pray….
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
John 13: 34-35
Recently I attended a mass at the most beautiful church in Ravenna, Italy. My husband and I were in Ravenna on that particular Sunday morning when beautiful church bells began ringing in the distance. Although we are not Catholic, finding no Protestant churches in the vicinity, we finally decided that we would attend. This cathedral, Basilica of San Vitale, is one of the most important examples of early Christian Byzantine Art and a UNESCO World Heritage site. We wanted so much to see the mosaics and the interior of this beautiful cathedral. Drawn by the melodious bells we quickly scurried into the cathedral and promptly took a seat in a small block of wooden pews near the front of the altar. The cathedral was magnificent with mosaics covering high vaulted ceilings and every wall within the building. The mosaics were bold and vivid in color even though they dated back to the 5th century. Visions of angels and saints danced along the walls, and in the center of the highest part of the wall was the face of Christ. A processional arrived with a Priest carrying a magnificent golden cross at the front while a few others paraded behind him singing as they approached the altar. From a balcony above, beautiful music and singing filtered through the cathedral resonating about the vaulted ceilings. It was truly beautiful to behold! The entire mass was in Italian and was written in a program for each congregate. Since I speak French I was able to decipher much of what was being stated. In the message there was much reference to Spirito Santo, the Holy Spirit, and Gesu Cristo, Jesus Christ.
During the service I found myself looking about at the small intimate congregation seated in the old wooden pews, while continuously praying for each one of them. Very few in number and mostly elderly, they sat attentively and repeated obediently according to the program. Then suddenly it hit me, there was such a heaviness about the room. The majority of the people were neither smiling nor rejoicing during the entire service. Although everything appeared so holy and lovely to behold, where was the joy that comes from entering the presence of a holy omnipotent God? Was much of what was being stated just an exercise in repetition and rote? In fact, how often do we as believers, regardless of our church affiliation, make rote statements and declarations about our relationship with Christ the Father? Do we truly know the Christ to whom we speak? Doesn’t He say in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” ? Do we recognize His voice? Do we truly follow Him? Or do we ritually complete the daily devotionals, which have become so popular and then call it a day? Do we truly have a revelation of who Christ is and who He has called us to be? Imagine, if congregates in all the churches had a true revelation of Christ and the authority that they have through Him. Then the nations would be completely transformed by His power. Freedom would reign and the fullness of joy would be evident in everyone.
As Christians we sometimes set ourselves above people of other faiths who do not believe as we do. We have a tendency to criticize others for their beliefs and to mock their rituals and behaviors. In fact, we often intentionally avoid others who are different from us and segregate ourselves in familiar groups with beliefs likening our own. Sadly, almost 90% of Christians minster only to other Christians and usually those are within their own groups. Jesus, on the contrary, met with all kinds of people of all kinds of faiths. We are called to love one another. Giving others grace and mercy for believing the way they do, even if we do not agree with them, is a way of showing love to them. Avoidance limits our opportunity to share the truth of Christ, which leads to transformation.
When we accept Christ we are given a marvelous gift of His Spirit to open our eyes to the wonders of an omnipotent God. We have been given an incredible opportunity to make a difference for ourselves and for others for eternity. And yet, in our selfishness we limit ourselves, and in effect others, in our failure to love people and to know intimately our Lord and Savior. Charles Spurgeon ( 1834 – 1892) a British Baptist preacher, still known as the “Prince of Preachers”, stated that “The door of the Word only opens to the key of diligence.” We essentially need to pour our lives into submission to the Word of God. We need to hear His voice daily and intimately and to love people in spite of their differing beliefs. We need to continually grow in our prayer life, in listening to His voice, and in the manifestation of His gifts within us and through us. This type of shift will by no means happen in the natural realm. As selfish and indulgent creatures we are helpless to achieve this goal independently. However, by His grace, by His strength, by His divine intervention, we can offer ourselves up wholly unto Him, allowing Him to make a paradigm shift within us; thus, leading us to heights beyond our reasoning, to His realm and to His Kingdom glory!
Prayer Needs for Italy:
- Please pray for Italians enslaved by tradition or disillusioned with religious systems to encounter the living Christ.
- Please pray for the power of God to be revealed and to set free those lost in the darkness of occult, pagan, and New Age practices.
- Please pray for nominal Christians throughout Italy to gain a true understanding of the gospel.
It was Friday, March 21, 2014, during prayer time at my “Moms In Prayer” (www.momsinprayer.org) meeting when I first noticed the word “Malta” written at the bottom of the prayer guide. Our group had been praying together for our children that morning, as we did every Friday, and we were drawing near to the close of our session. We had been focusing our prayer on the attribute, “God is Generous.” We defined Him as “One who magnanimously shares something of value; one who bestows blessings or makes abundant provision; one who is liberal in giving.” We had prayed this attribute on our children and were now focusing on a section at the bottom of the prayer guide entitled, “Moms in Prayer Concerns.” As we began reading, the section stated the need to pray for the following: “that one mom who is praying alone in Malta will be joined by other women to come along side her and pray, and that the Lord would use these mothers to grow many groups in that country.” As we began to pray I immediately felt a surge of heat flush over my body that I truly believe was the Holy Spirit. At that moment I realized that His Spirit was touching and impressing me. At that instant I knew that I was to travel to Malta, a nation below the southern tip of Italy, to meet, pray and encourage this lone woman in Malta who was crying out to God. I was so deeply impressed by this experience that I not only knew that I had to meet this woman, I knew I would meet this woman. At the close of the prayer session, I shared my experience with the group and we prayed together that God would not only reveal her identity, but that I would indeed find her, and meet with her in Malta, this small nation on the other side of the world. That night I shared my experience with my husband and told him that I believed I was to meet, pray, and encourage this lady of Malta. I continued by telling him I was certain God was going to arrange all the details. My husband looked at me a little surprised at first as some of my other friends did as well. But in my heart I knew this meeting would take place. I was certain of it!
My Moms In Prayer group continued praying for the lady of Malta, along with other prayer warrior friends who committed to pray as well. I sent multiple emails to several staff members listed on the website for Moms In Prayer International, requesting information on the mysterious lady of Malta. I continued to wait and pray as the weeks quickly flew by. Finally on May 8th, only three weeks before our departure, I received an email from Sue Iacoboni, in the field ministry department overseeing Eastern Europe, who sent me the email address and name of the lady in Malta.
Her name was Heddy and just two weeks before we left for Eastern Europe I received my first email from Heddy, the mysterious lady of Malta I was praying to find. In the email she stated that she would pick me up at the port as soon as our ship arrived, and transport me to a breakfast to meet, pray and speak to a group of ladies she had invited. It was an incredible opportunity and God certainly met us there. When my husband and I arrived at the port and met Heddy, she and I both fell into each other’s arms, laughing and weeping, in awe of our awesome and incredible God, who in His generosity and love, had brought us together for such a time as this. The very thought of it was mind-boggling!
We hurried off a short distance to Valletta, the capital of Malta, and walked through breathtakingly beautiful streets to our breakfast destination. As I walked through those streets I was overwhelmed with thoughts of Paul the Apostle of Christ who had walked this land as well; that same Paul, who had crossed the very sea that I had crossed, and eventually shipwrecked on this land. Great healing had taken place and the Bible states that as Paul ministered everyone on the island was healed and saved to the glory of God. I realized that this was a nation of great lineage; a country I truly believe will one day be transformed, restored and reconciled to Christ.
Following introductions at breakfast, I began to share and encourage the women with testimonies and stories from the Bible, of God’s goodness and His love. Following my lead a few of ladies began to share their future hopes as well as their needs and we began to pray together. We spoke of Moms In Prayer and its mission to equip and empower our children through Christ and His word. We prayed for every need and for each lady present as well as her children and family.
One lady was supposed to have departed on a trip to Romania, however, her trip was delayed a day so she attended the breakfast. She was having severe back pain during the breakfast and asked Heddy and I to pray for her. She had been diagnosed with scoliosis. After we prayed she said that she felt extreme heat on her back and that the pain had immediately left her. Since my return we have continued as Facebook friends and she still has had no more bad pains in her back. God in His generosity had allowed this lady to stay an extra day in order to send her to Romania with a testimony of God’s glory.
Following the breakfast we toured the city and visited sites about the island with Heddy and her friend from South Africa. The South African lady and her husband arrived in Malta a few months prior. After a time the Lord connected them with Heddy and her husband to serve along side them.
During our visit I learned that Heddy and her husband pastor a fledgling church. They had also just set up the only trafficking ministry in all of Malta. Heddy is an emigrants’ rights advocate and has actually presented at the Helsinki commission in Poland as Malta’s only representative. Heddy and her family migrated from Zimbabwe a few years earlier, arriving in Malta in hopes of fulfilling their mission for the kingdom. In the afternoon we visited Heddy’s home and were able to pray and meet with her husband, and three sons. The spirit of God was so heavy and powerful that day as we prayed and wept together.
You might be imagining some wealthy, high standing couple doing God’s work in Malta. On the contrary, they are just ordinary people struggling to feed and clothe their family, having endured hardships that you and I might have never endured. It’s amazing how ordinary people who surrender their lives to God become truly extraordinary! Living a modest life, Heddy leans in to God, taking one step at a time, because that is all God allows her to see. Even so, she trusts him. She is an amazing and powerful woman of God!
Isolated at times because of religious differences within that nation, Heddy and I prayed together that denominational walls would be torn down and that the nation of Malta would unite in prayer and that Moms in Prayer Groups would spread across the country. I received the following letter from Heddy when we returned home June 17, 2014. Reading this letter brings tears to my eyes. This tribute is not actually about Heddy or me, this tribute is to God and to each of you who committed to pray for Heddy and her family and the spreading of the gospel through Moms in Prayer groups across Malta. Thank you for your obedience to pray:
Oh what a blessed day I had with you and your dear husband. I cannot even begin to tell what it was like for me. It was like a dream come true, someone coming all the way from across the globe to just encourage me and let me know that I am not walking alone. The Lord knows the battles that I have had to fight this year, right from New Year. I have been standing and defending my lentil patch. (2 Sam 23:11-12)
I was getting battle weary and I needed that push and thank the Lord you obeyed and came all the way to just bless me, my family and my church. May God richly bless you as I was truly blessed and encouraged, and so were the other ladies that attended the breakfast. Schools are now coming to a close but I am already planning some talks with ladies who might be interested in meeting up to pray as Moms. Thank you so much for making this trip and making my day a truly blessed one.”
Email from Sue (Field ministry department/Eastern Europe),
September 8 2014:
“God is continuing to do more than we can ask or imagine. I was on Skype with Heddy last month and we asked God to take down the denominational walls so that Christian women are open to praying with one another and the next day He answered! Heddy was invited to a women’s fellowship night with multiple Christian denominations and 25 women attended. Half of them want to start Moms in Prayer groups!!! So if you can pray for Heddy to be able to follow up with each one of them and get them started with their groups.”
Such an amazing God! I also followed up by asking Sue if I could do anything to be of service for Moms In Prayer International to please let me know. She recently asked me to serve in a position called, “country helper.” A country helper communicates with groups in a specific country, prays for them and helps connect moms (via email or Skype), when there is no available in-country leadership. Needless to say, I said yes!
We serve an amazing God who is by no means limited by time and space. We are the ones who put limits on what God can do by not trusting, listening or daring to believe Him. We serve an amazing God who called us by name and equipped us to do the impossible through the power of His Spirit. The original attribute we prayed the day that I first heard of the lady of Malta was “God is Generous”. Our nation should not be a limitation. God has been so generous with all of us. It’s time to rally that generosity upon others. What about the heart cries of women and children across the world? God’s mission is to reach all nations; therefore, our call as women and moms is to reach these nations, through prayer, through technology; Facebook, email, Skype; and even to be open to travel to other lands. Women have a powerful gift of influence and Moms In Prayer International is the perfect vehicle to open doors to empowering women and children across the world with the gospel of Christ! Please continue to pray for Heddy, her family and the Moms In Prayer groups rising up in Malta.
My dear friend Heddy, you truly are an Indestructible Daughter!
Please pray that:
- Heddy and her family will be strengthened and empowered to complete the mission God has called them to do, spiritually, emotionally and financially.
- Denominational walls will be torn down and that the people of Malta will unite in one Spirit, the Holy Spirit.
- Their church will grow and multiply in the power of Christ. hopechurchmalta.com
- God will bless and grow their trafficking ministry.
- Revival will come to the nation of Malta.
- Women will rise in their identity and authority in Christ as His Indestructible Daughters.
- Moms in Prayer groups will spread across Malta. (momsinprayer.org) (https://www.momsinprayer.org/Groups/International/International-News/Malta)
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