Well I’m sat here in Manchester in my house. I got back from Angola yesterday after a journey of 21 hours. Quite a long time! My bag is still somewhere along on the trip. Obviously my bag likes traveling more than me. A thought that strikes me as I listen to Sting whilst typing this is that it is so so cold! I’ve been used to 35 degrees not 13 degrees!
As this is the first time I’ve had Internet access for a little while I want to tell you about the utterly amazing day we had last Thursday. Thursday was the day we had set aside to put into practice with the Church in Luena some of things we had learnt in the school of evangelism the Saturday before.
The day started with 4 hours of prayer from 7am till 11am. This I lead. Now I will admit to not being completely up for that the night before. I had that dread of a long church service, that most Christians feel from time to time. The feeling that eternity was going to start early the next morning. However, I forced myself to focus on what I believe God wanted. To this end, I knew that God wanted us to focus on him and then focus on those outside of the Church.
The Church in question was a small ramshackle church in a very poor area in Luena (are there any rich areas?) called Bethsaida. There were perhaps 100 people in the Church, they had apparently been there since 5am singing. We led some prayer for a while, the first 30 minutes in silence, contemplating what God was saying to us. After a couple of hours, we divided everyone up into groups to walk around the area praying. This never normally happens in Africa. Think a little bit like an impromptu March for Jesus. My group, we walked through the area, prayed for the local Catholic Church and also visited a school and prayed with every class, headmaster and teachers. Soon enough four hours had gone, everyone seemed encouraged, we took a break for 2 hours.
Pastor Luis returned with some news that only two of us could get flights to the capital. With us needing to run an Alpha training conference in Luanda (the first in the country) we really had to be there. Something in me responded. We prayed right there and I said, “We are going back to the office, there are going to be four tickets”. Luis seemed a little reluctant but he went along with me.
Firstly we had no car so we had to walk in the baking midday heat. No mean feat. I was feeling kind of impatient, hoping everything would be OK. God at the same time, seemed to be nudging my Spirit to trust him. After 25 mins or so, the car caught us up and we were bundled inside. Our smiley brother (never did know his name) promptly drove us around to his office, not the airline office. As I did not know the time the airline closed I was feeling very impatient inside.
What happened next, defies belief, but that is the God we know. As I was sat there, I felt the Spirit say to me, “watch me play my hand, just sit there and watch”. Our friend the driver got out and went to find his boss. He returned saying that he was coming to meet us. I was thinking, I wander what is going on so I asked, who is your boss. He replied, “the minister of transport for Moxico Province”. So his boss turned up and accompanied us to the airline office. He disappeared with the director of Taag Airlines in to an office we me waiting outside. They emerged 5 minutes later and the tickets had been grated. Luis seemed surprised and pleased. In those five minutes I had not said anything or done anything. Just sat there. God had indeed played his hand.
With that out of the way, we returned to the Church. What happened was amazing. The Church we had split into 2/3 groups. Some to practically go and help people. Some to go house to house and pray for people, some other people to preach. There is not really an understanding of corporate evangelism (ie. everyone) being involved, so this was a first. I first went to see how those doing the practical work were fairing. As I walked around the dust tracks and dirt of the area, I could see members of the Church sweeping, washing pots, helping wherever they could. Something in me leapt to see this. Some of the people had brought soap and clothes out of their own poverty to give to those in need. How humbling! I stood there and started to think, how good would it be if this could happen all over the place.
I heard the story of a widow, sat in one of those ramshackle basic houses. She was all alone, and if I remember correctly, she could not see properly. Some members of the Church had come to her house, where they cleaned for her. She started to cry. Nobody had EVER helped her before. The group prayed with her and she said she would go to the Church on Sunday.
I then went to the other group to see how the preaching was going on. I cam across one African pastor berating some guy for not going to church. Why is it we do that? I mean it was hardly going to encourage the guy. I sat down, in the dirt, in the mess and sat with this guy. I found out his name, “Pedro”, and asked him where he lived. He was an alcoholic. We talked about his future and I told him that the alcohol was stealing his future and that maybe only Jesus could help him. Do you know what, he gave his life to Jesus. We prayed for him, and his heart was genuine. You could pray for him too.
Twenty minutes later we were praying for a woman with neck pain. She could not move her neck properly. Another church member prayed for her and she said that she could feel something happening. Then I prayed for her, and the rest of the healing took place. She could move her neck completely and she said that she had no pain. I mean, fantastic!
We returned to the Church later in the afternoon. There were testimonies of what had happened, people who had become Christians, stories of help. I was bowled over.
I had a sense of a great victory. Evil, the Kingdom of Darkness had been dented, but not by me, by the Church working together. As we were driving up the road, I caught a site of a traditional witchdoctor in the area we had been working, all dressed up, big mask, hairy boots, sticks, shield etc. etc. Do you know what went through my mind, “too little, too late”. The day belonged to Jesus and his love and power, not to the evil that is all so prevalent in Africa.