“One day, while sitting in class, my makeshift pad leaked. When I stood up, I realized that I had stained my school uniform. I asked a classmate if she could spare a pad, but she too was in need. I wrapped my jumper around my waist and requested permission to leave.”
For Exaveline, what should be a typical day turns into a recurring nightmare when her monthly period arrives. At just 16 years old, she cannot afford sanitary pads, and she has exhausted all possible methods to prevent staining her school uniform. Unfortunately, her attempts often fail, leaving her feeling ashamed and frustrated.
As a result, she frequently chooses to stay home from school, missing out on valuable education. This not only affects her self-esteem but also hinders her academic performance. Imagine if this was your sister, daughter, granddaughter, niece or friend.
Exaveline is not the only one. A staggering 80% of women in Burundi lack access to menstrual pads. We want to help change that. Many of our Partners run sewing schools, where they teach people valuable business skills so they can gain employment (an excellent initiative in itself). They produce packs of reusable sanitary pads in their workshops for teenage girls so they no longer have to drop out of school each month.
Can you help us provide 5000 precious young women with dignity, hygiene and access to education each month?
On one level, it’s just an excuse for a good time, and I love the chance to engage with the community and be out and about. But on another level, I’m uncomfortable with the sinister underbelly and know that as a follower of Jesus, I need to be awake to those darker realities.
So I thought I’d share with you two of my friends’ stories, who were witches themselves. I think their opinions and experiences are more important and authoritative than mine, and what happened in their lives is frankly mind-blowing. Well worth the listen:
Witchcraft manifests itself in different cultures in different ways. The following two stories are from our recent summer outreach teams in August in Burundi:
In Makamba province in a town called Kivoga, Nadine was a contemporary ‘Gadarene demoniac’, just like in Mark chapter 5. Her father had sought treatment at a mental hospital because of her deteriorating condition, as well spending all he could on traditional medicine and witchdoctors. Eventually the family gave up, and she lived on the rubbish dump, roaming the streets at night, half-dressed. She was feared and mocked by the whole community for her unsettling behaviour.
When our team of evangelists showed up, they overcame their initial fear and started praying for her. The demons manifested, but the team called on reinforcements, took her to the local church, and over the next three hours of intensive prayer, battled through for her total deliverance. Suddenly, after the last demon was cast out, Nadine’s screams ceased. She looked at herself and began weeping. She had no recollection of what had happened, but now asked for some clothes.
When her father arrived and saw her ‘in her right mind’ (like Mark 5:15), he was so overwhelmed he fell to the ground. Our guys shared with him how Jesus had set her free, and he and seven other people present gave their lives to the Lord!
Baltazar was a notorious witch doctor from Bugenyuzi. He was feared by all around him, and loved the reputation he had. Nobody challenged him as they didn’t want him to cast a spell on them (I know, many of you struggle to believe this stuff. Suffice to say, out there you don’t need to convince them the power is real).
One day, a neighbour approached and asked him to stop his witchcraft. A few days later, that previously healthy man was found dead at home. So that was the context when our team showed up. They heard the stories and decided to camp out on Baltazar’s hill and pray every night.
When he heard what they were doing, he went out to confront them. But as he approached them, he was overwhelmed by a greater power and fell to his knees. He asked for prayers and surrendered to Christ. He invited the team back to his home, where his wife likewise repented when she heard what had happened to him. A crowd came to watch as they burned all his charms, and he and his wife repented of all they had done to their neighbours and in the community. Everyone was amazed at this total transformation.
As the picture at the top makes clear, we can’t afford to treat this stuff as funny mumbo jumbo, be it in Africa or the Western world. There is a spiritual realm and a spiritual battle going on. That’s why we need to wake up and pray seriously. Piper highlights the critical issue as follows for us in the West: “Probably the number one reason why prayer malfunctions in the hands of believers is that we try to turn a wartime walkie-talkie into a domestic intercom. Until you know that life is war, you cannot know what prayer is for… But what have millions of Christians done? We have stopped believing that we are in a war. No urgency, no watching, no vigilance. No strategic planning. Just easy peace and prosperity. And what did we do with the walkie-talkie? We tried to rig it up as an intercom in our houses – not to call in firepower for conflict with a mortal enemy, but to ask for more comforts in the den.”
Some years ago a young man looking for work approached a foreman of a logging crew and asked him for a job. “It depends,” replied the foreman “lets see you take this one down”.
The young man stepped forward, and skillfully felled a great tree. The foreman was impressed and explained, “you can start on Monday!”.
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday rolled by. Thursday afternoon the foreman approached the young man and said, “You can pick up your paycheck on the way out today”.
Startled, the young man asked, “I thought you paid on Fridays.”, “Normally we do”, answered the foreman, “but we are letting you go today because you have fallen behind. Our daily charts show that you have dropped from first place on Monday to last place on Wednesday”. “But I’m a hard worker”, the young man objected, “I arrive first, leave last, and I’ve even worked through my coffee breaks!” The foreman sensing the boy’s integrity, thought for a minute and then asked, “Have you been sharpening your axe?”, the young man replied, “Well, no, Sir. I have been working too hard to take the time.”
Application: How about you? Too busy to sharpen your axe? Prayer is the hone that gives you the sharp edge. Without prayer, the more work you do the duller you will get. We need to take time to stay sharp as we go about the work of Christ’s kingdom!
Recognised as one of Britain’s greatest ever preachers, Spurgeon once wrote, “Give me twelve men, importunate men, lovers of souls, who fear nothing but sin and love nothing but God, and I’ll shake London from end to end.” The power of a surrendered life is immense, because those who have laid their all on the altar are pure vessels for the ministering of God’s Spirit into any given situation. I no longer just possess a faith, but more than that, my faith possesses me.
Walter Lewis Wilson was an American doctor born towards the end of the nineteenth century. He was a faithful Christian who often hosted visiting missionaries to his church. One visitor from France didn’t mince words, asking him, “Who is the Holy Spirit to you?” Wilson’s answer was doctrinally correct, “One of the Persons of the Godhead… Teacher, Guide, Third Person of the Trinity.” But it was an empty and rehearsed response. His friend pushed him harder, challenging him, “You haven’t answered my question.” Wilson opened up with real candour, “He’s nothing to me. I have no contact with him and could get along without him.”
The following year, Wilson listened to a sermon at church from Romans 12 on the challenge to offer his body as a living sacrifice. The preacher called out from the pulpit, “Have you noticed that this verse doesn’t tell us to Whom we should give our bodies? It’s not the Lord Jesus. He has his own body. It’s not the Father. He remains on his throne. Another has come to earth without a body. God gives you the indescribable honour of presenting your bodies to the Holy Spirit, to be his dwelling place on earth.”
Wilson was struck to the core and rushed home to seek the Lord. He fell on his face and pleaded with the Lord, “My Lord, I’ve treated you like a servant. When I wanted you, I called for you. Now I give you this body from my head to my feet. I give you my hands, my limbs, my eyes and lips, my brain. You may send this body to Africa, or lay it on a bed with cancer. It’s your body from this moment on.”
The next morning, Wilson was working in his office when two ladies arrived, trying to sell him advertising. He immediately led them to Christ. The previous night’s surrender had enabled him to access new power from on high. From that day onwards, his life entered a new dimension of evangelistic fruitfulness. He went on to pioneer a church plant, a mission organisation, and a Bible College, as well as becoming a best-selling author.
Do you want to be entrusted with that same power from the Holy Spirit? Well, who is the Holy Spirit to you? Like the early Wilson, can you get along perfectly well without him? Or are you truly willing to offer him your body as a living sacrifice, without conditions or caveats? There’s so much more power that I want to plug into for God’s glory. But will I trust him for every aspect of my life? Will I “consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3v8)? These are big, big questions.
Here’s inviting you to total surrender. If you’re ready for it, then how about taking a few minutes and reflecting on John Wesley’s ‘Covenant Prayer’, and then making it your own:
“I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, Rank me with whoever you will.
Put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for you, Or laid aside for you.
Exalted for you, or brought low for you.
Let me be full Let me be empty. Let me have all things, Let me have nothing!
And now, O Father, You are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant I am making on earth, Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”
To do that we’re given the power of the Holy Spirit. So we call on him to turn the world upside down, starting with you and me. We embrace whatever and however he chooses to operate, even if it’s not how we would have envisaged it. Catherine Fox wrote, “The Biblical images to describe the work of the Spirit – fire, mighty rushing wind, flood etc – are exactly the sorts of things we pay to insure ourselves against.” It’s perhaps a daunting prospect, as we accept his leadership and authority over our lives. But William Temple warned us that “if we invoke the Holy Spirit, we must be ready for the glorious pain of being caught by his power (and taken) out of our petty orbit into the eternal purposes of the Almighty.”
Annie Dillard in Teaching a Stone to Talk, describes the church: “On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or as I suspect, does no-one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning.
It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offence, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.”
Moody’s encounter with the Holy Spirit in New York transformed his ministry. After one service, two old ladies called Mrs Sarah Cooke and Mrs Hawkhurst approached him and told him, “You are good, but you haven’t got it… we have been praying for you… you need power!” Moody, an already well-respected minister, was unimpressed. “I need power?” asked Moody. “Why, I thought I had power!” The ladies poured out their hearts that he might receive the anointing of the Holy Ghost and soon there grew a great hunger in his soul. “I felt I did not want to live any longer if I had not this power for service.” There began a period of six months’ pleading with God for more. Then God visited him as he walked down Wall Street in New York; he was never the same again. Although his sermons and doctrine had not changed, his effectiveness in winning thousands to Christ was evidence of this new power.
Foster writes, “In our day heaven and earth are on tiptoe waiting for the emerging of a Spirit-led, Spirit-intoxicated, Spirit-empowered people. All of creation watches expectantly for the springing up of a disciplined, freely gathered, martyr people who know in this life the life and power of the kingdom of God. It has happened before. It can happen again… Such a people will not emerge until there is among us a deeper, more profound experience of an Emmanuel of the Spirit – God with us, a knowledge that in the power of the Spirit Jesus has come to guide his people himself, an experience of his leading that is as definite and as immediate as the cloud by day and fire by night.”
Tozer penned the following last century. It’s meaty. The consequences of such praying, when heartfelt, are quite simply earth-shaking. Families, communities, regions and nations have been and still can be changed by people who’ve surrendered their right to themselves and have been willing to give their all for the glory of Jesus Christ. Maybe check that you’re willing to pray it wholeheartedly, and take time to grapple with the implications that each line will have for your relationships, career, family and future…
“I come to you today, O Lord, To give up my rights, To lay down my life,
To offer my future,
To give my devotion, my skills, my energies.
I shall not waste time
Deploring my weaknesses
Nor my unfittedness for the work.
I acknowledge your choice with my life
To make your Christ attractive and intelligible
To those around me.
I come to you for spiritual preparation.
Put your hand upon me,
Anoint me with the oil of the One with Good News.
Save me from compromise,
Heal my soul from small ambitions,
Deliver me from the itch to always be right,
Save me from wasting time.
I accept hard work, I ask for no easy place,
Help me not to judge others who walk a smoother path.
Show me those things that diminish spiritual power in a soul.
I now consecrate my days to you,
Make your will more precious than anybody or anything.
Fill me with your power
And when at the end of life’s journey I see you face to face
You might struggle to believe some of the following stories from last month’s outreach. I hope not though. ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever’ (Hebrew 13:8).
So here are some feedback highlights, having asked folks to pray last month as we sent out 1,439 young evangelists from 88 churches for two weeks all around Burundi.
The top-line summary is that they saw over 23,000 people come to faith! It’s the modern-day Acts of the Apostles! Here goes:
An Urge for Healing
In the small village of Bwambarangwe in Kirundo province, 41-year-old Diomede had lain paralysed from the waist down and in increasing despair for the last three years. Our team visited him and shared the gospel, which he accepted as he was desperately in need of hope!
Interestingly, they didn’t pray for his healing initially. But as they parted ways and stepped out of the compound, he felt the urge to call them back to pray for him to be completely healed. Once they’d said ‘Amen!’, he took his crutches and stood up. He then let them go and carried on walking! He burst into tears and shouted for joy.
Hearing his cries, people rushed to see what was happening. Just like in Mark 2:12, they were ‘all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” Thirteen people responded to the miracle by surrendering their lives to Christ.
In Her Right Mind at Last
In a town called Kivoga, Nadine was a contemporary ‘Gadarene demoniac’, just like in Mark chapter 5.
As her condition detoriorated, her father sought treatment at a mental hospital, as well as spending all he could on traditional medicine and witchdoctors. Eventually, the family gave up, and she wandered around Kivoga deranged and half-dressed, feared and mocked by the whole community. She lived on the rubbish dump and roamed the streets at night.
When our team of evangelists showed up, they overcame their initial fear and started praying for her. Demons manifested, but the team called on reinforcements, took her to the local church, and over the next three hours of intensive prayer, battled through for her total deliverance.
Suddenly, after the last demon was cast out, Nadine’s screams ceased. She looked at herself and began weeping. She had no recollection of what had happened but asked for some clothes.
When her father arrived and saw her ‘in her right mind’ (like Mark 5:15), he was so overwhelmed he fell to the ground. Our guys shared with him how Jesus had set her free, and her Dad and seven other people present gave their lives to the Lord!
From Cursing to Repenting
Baltazar was a notorious witch doctor from Bugenyuzi. He was feared by all around him, and loved the reputation he had. Nobody challenged him as they didn’t want him to cast a spell on them (I know, many of you struggle to believe this stuff. Suffice to say, out there you don’t need to convince them the power is real).
One day, a neighbour approached and asked him to stop his witchcraft. A few days later, that previously healthy man was found dead at home.
So that was the context when our team showed up. They heard the stories and decided to camp out on Baltazar’s hill and pray every night. When he heard what they were doing, he went out to confront them.
But as he approached them, he was overwhelmed by a greater power and fell to his knees. He asked for prayers and surrendered to Christ. He invited the team back to his home, where his wife likewise repented when she heard what had happened to him. A crowd came to watch as the team burned all his charms, and he and his wife repented of all they had done to their neighbours and in the community.
Everyone was amazed at this total transformation.
Wow! Wow! Wow!
There are more stories, but I’ll stop there. It’s a different context to ours maybe, but the same gospel message – the same Holy Spirit in us, the same power in the name of Jesus, the same Heavenly Father who longs to forgive his children and lavish them with his amazing grace.
Earlier this summer, I asked for prayers for our huge team of evangelists during their two-week summer outreach campaign, and the results and stories are in. As promised, here’s what happened. First, the stats:
Amazing! And there were other stories of marriages being restored, suicidal attempts thwarted or abandoned, community reconciliation and more.
So here are a few of the many stories – all I can say is ‘Wow!’ and ‘Praise God!’ Enjoy the snapshots:
Sylvère had dropped out of school in 2018 because of mental ill-health or demons– demons is what the parents believed. He ran around the community in a crazed state until he was forcibly locked up and sedated. His parents tried both recognised medicine and witchcraft potions, but things only got worse. But then, a few weeks ago, his father Jacques met a friend who advised him to go to a nearby church, where he had heard of an evangelistic outreach taking place.
“I was exhausted on that day. The doctors had told me there was nothing left to do for my son but take him home. I felt hopeless and had already given up. My wife encouraged me to give it one last try and take him to that church. I was very reluctant. I had heard many stories of people whom churches had scammed.
When we got to the church, we were greeted by a group of evangelists who were praying. They immediately started praying for my son. While praying, my son screamed and shouted and moved hysterically. The more he yelled, the more they prayed.
Suddenly, he stopped moving. One of the evangelists talked to Sylvere and asked him a question, to which he responded verbally. I was in awe. It was the first time hearing my son speak for three years. I fell to my knees and immediately repented.”
Ten members of his extended family gave their lives to the Lord and burnt all their charms.
Goretti had been paralysed for three years. The team visited and prayed for her. She was healed, and straightaway gave her life to Jesus. Six of her family members and five neighbours also came to Christ on the back of witnessing her healing!
Éric and Aline had travelled 35km to consult a powerful sorcerer. Our team interacted with the trio, who were each deeply convicted. They renounced witchcraft, gave their lives to Jesus and did away with all their paraphernalia!
A poor 48-year-old widow in Gahombo had been blind for ten years. She was prayed for, healed, gave her life to Jesus and returned to her home where seven neighbours were blown away at her miraculous healing and likewise chose to follow Jesus, amidst huge rejoicing!
Makobero had been a witch doctor for sixty years. Having encountered the evangelists, he felt convicted and converted; at that point, six of his family also decided to follow Jesus, whilst he burnt all his idols!
22-year-old Désiré was seen by the whole community as a madman wandering around. When the evangelists visited his family, his parents said they’d only listen to the gospel if the team prayed for Désiré first and showed them God’s power. When he was healed, 31 people gave their lives to Jesus in response!
Thanks so much for your prayers, I have no doubt they played a huge role!
I hope you are encouraged. It’s our 17th year of doing this, and we’ll be back at it next year.
We are entering a dark period of history, and we need to be ready for it.
I fear we are far from ready.
Are you ready? Am I?
“God did not give us a spirit of fear.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
I believe it is absolutely critical for believers in the risen Jesus Christ to embrace and live out this verse.
We live by faith, not fear. Or at least that is how we are meant to live. But my observation in lockdown was that many believers were as susceptible to fear as anyone else, absorbing endless fear-inducing messages and being crippled into inactivity and despondency when we should have been beacons of hope and light in that dark time.
Remember the Satanic Lullaby? (Check it out here). This message went viral because it resonated with so many of you. Indeed, huge numbers of people are getting taken out by it. But whether we’re being lulled to sleep or conditioned into fearful living, it’s crucial that we recognise what is going on. The stakes are high.
Folks in the West – I’m not talking to Burundians or many other cultures and nations that have suffered for so long – we need to develop resilience (*see bottom for eleven tips on how to do that). We are possibly the most unresilient generation in the history of humanity. Despite being the most materialistically ‘developed’ society ever, we’re experiencing a darkening shadow of existential emptiness, anxiety, and hopelessness.
Since the Second World War, this largely peaceful period has shaped us over decades to seek comfort and ease above all else, which has weakened our ability to stand firm in a crisis. We’ve simply had it easy for too long – collectively, not necessarily individually – and we need to wake up. Jesus said: “In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
We just weren’t ready for the Covid crisis, and we’re still not ready for the multiple crises to come. Last month I listened to this measured but extraordinary prophetic word (watch it here), and it really chimed with my spirit. It’s 38mins long but well worth the listen. The picture painted is very bleak indeed on the one hand, but provides a glorious opportunity for those of us who choose faith over fear, have a balanced theology of suffering, and develop healthy resilience whilst boldly living out the glorious gospel.
Looking back and learning the lessons of history helps us to be able to look forward with confidence and vision. Tim Dieppe does just that in this excellent article, and challenges us at the end with the question: ‘How will our generation of Christians go down in church history?’ Read it here…
Along a similar line, Dr Stephen Backhouse wrote:
“In 165AD a plague swept through the mighty Roman Empire, wiping out one in three of the population. It happened again in 251AD where 5000 people per day were dying in the city of Rome alone. Those infected were abandoned by their families to die in the streets. The government was helpless and the Emperor himself succumbed to the plague. Pagan priests fled their temples where people flocked for comfort and explanation. People were too weak to help themselves. If the smallpox did not kill you, hunger, thirst and loneliness would.
The effect on wider society was catastrophic. Yet following the plagues the good reputation of Christianity was confirmed, and its population grew exponentially. Why is this? Christians did not come armed with intellectual answers to the problem of evil. They did not enjoy a supernatural ability to avoid pain and suffering. What they did have was water and food and their presence.
In short, if you knew a Christian you were statistically more likely to survive, and if you survived it was the church that offered you the most loving, stable and social environment. It was not clever apologetics, strategic political organisation or the witness of martyrdom which converted an Empire so much as it was the simple conviction of normal women and men that what they did for the least of their neighbours they did it for Christ.”
We can all be those people again in our day! We are here for such a time as this! The cliché is true: we may not know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future – and we can live confident in that.
Smith Wigglesworth gave this challenge to followers of Jesus:
“Live ready. If you have to get ready when the opportunity comes your way, you’ll be too late. Opportunity doesn’t wait, not even while you pray. You must not have to get ready, you must live ready at all times.
Be filled with the Spirit; that is, be soaked with the Spirit. Be so soaked that every thread in the fabric of your life will have received the requisite rule of the Spirit – then when you are misused and squeezed to the wall, all that will ooze out of you will be the nature of Christ.”
So if need be, wake up! If awake, then get ready, and live ready! Not on your own, but deeply rooted in an active community of believers. This is no soft sell, but I look forward to seeing what oozes out of us…!
11 Suggestions (amongst many possible ones!) On Developing Resilience
Live connected – in a community of faith, down your street, with family and friends. We can’t do this in isolation.
Acknowledge and welcome God into every part of your day – I try to picture myself wearing glasses, and the lens through which I see everything is Him. I invite Him to filter everything. That brings much more peace and stability.
Switch off the news – it’s good to know what is going on in the world in order to pray effectively, but you don’t need to absorb relentlessly negative news 24/7, it’s so depressing! That’s why I started my ‘Inspired…’ podcast, to counteract all the bad news with wonderful stories of overcoming faith.
Memorise Scripture – storing up God’s promises in your heart and standing on them gives strong backbone.
Get exercise – ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ – it’s true. Push yourself, even if you don’t want to. It doesn’t have to be much but it makes a huge difference.
Be grateful/thankful – acknowledging and focusing on the blessings in your life brings joy and lightness that can blast away the negative thoughts.
Keep things in perspective – as my Burundian brothers taught me, you will make it! God is still on the throne. The sun will rise tomorrow. One step at a time.
Embrace the reality that you can’t be in control, and that change is a given – Remember the serenity prayer? “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference”.
Take care of yourself – not in a narcissistic or self-absorbed way, but make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating well, working reasonable hours, not stuck indoors the whole time, doing activities that bring joy, make you laugh, etc.
Listen to the right voices – God’s voice, your friends’ and families’ voices, trusted voices, not the relentless bombarding cultural lies we are being fed. Seriously limit time spent on social media. Get off that screen, cross the road and talk to a neighbour over a cup of tea!
Ask for help – We all have tough seasons. Find a trusted brother or sister in Christ and share it without shame. Allow yourself to be encouraged by them and remember, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (1 Corinthians 12:9). Likewise, look out for those who may be in that place now.
It’s an important question. Lots of people live under guilt and shame, which is no way to do life.
You see, we may be undeserving of God’s grace but we are certainly not unworthy. Because our worth is defined or measured by what Someone is willing to pay for us. And Jesus showed us just how valuable we are on the cross, didn’t he? He settled the matter there.
Below is the second in a series of talks given a few weeks ago at Lee Abbey.
The second one is ‘Come to Me Dirty’, which can be listened to or downloaded here.
Below are a few things that I shared which if you haven’t got time to listen you could read:
As sinners, we’re all guilty, but we shouldn’t live under shame. The voice of shame will tell us that what we’ve done wrong defines us, that we are our sin, or that we are the sins of others around or before us. Guilt usually involves something we did: I did something bad; whereas shame involves who we are: I am bad. When we break God’s laws, we should feel (healthily) guilty, and then deal with the guilt. But that healthy conviction is often quickly joined by shame. And where guilt says, “You did something wrong,” shame says, “That’s why you’re no good, there’s no hope for you, flee, live in darkness, you need to hide.” Remember in the garden of Eden, at the end of Genesis 2, they were naked and felt no shame (v25), but immediately after the fall in Genesis 3 they knew they were naked and hid in shame.
Guilt’s role is to convict. Shame’s role is to condemn. Guilt’s job is to drive you towards the cross. Shame’s job is to drive you away from the cross. Shame demands that we cover up, hide our sin, and fake it. Another word for shame is disgrace. God’s antidote to shame – or disgrace – is His grace.
Paul wrote in Romans 7:24,25 “What a wretched man I man! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Johnny Lingo lived on the island of Nurabi, and he was one of the richest men in all the islands. He got that way because he was a smart trader. And Johnny Lingo was in love with Surita, who lived on the neighbouring Island of Kiriwadi.
If you were kind, you would call Surita ‘plain’.
Now on the island of Kiriwadi, they had a tradition, that when a man wanted to marry a woman, he would go to the woman’s father and bargain for the woman by offering a number of cows. The average woman on Kiriwadi went for 4 cows; the most beautiful woman on Kiriwadi had gone for 6 cows.
Sam Korad, the father of Surita, had decided he was going to ask for 2 cows for Surita, but that he would accept one.
On the day of the trading, the people of both islands gathered to watch. This was the social event of the year. And imagine their surprise when Johnny Lingo offered Sam Korad eight cows for Surita! Everyone said, “He’s mad! He’s blind! Why would a man – a smart trader – offer eight cows for a woman he could have married for one?”
Well, here’s the reason. They got married, and in 6 months Surita had become the most beautiful woman in all the islands.
She had been given value. And she blossomed.
We all have the same value in the eyes of Jesus Christ. He paid exactly the same price for you and for me as he paid for Billy Graham or Mother Theresa or Simon Peter.
You are an eight-cow saint. And so is everyone around you.
1 John 3:1 “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
A new convert approached Watchman Nee in deep anguish of soul, saying: “No matter how much I pray, no matter how hard I try, I simply cannot seem to be faithful to my Lord. I think I’m losing my salvation.” Watchman Nee replied: “Do you see this dog here? He is my dog. He is house-trained; he never makes a mess; he is obedient; he is a pure delight to me. Out in the kitchen I have a son, a baby son. He throws his food around, he fouls his clothes, he’s a total mess. But who is going to inherit my kingdom? Not my dog. My son is my heir! And you are Jesus Christ’s heir because it is for you that He died.”
That’s the truth! So come to him today, however dirty you may feel!
I’ve had a fun day so far, and yet it’s been such a normal day. Let me explain:
Our church was serving the local community at the weekend by providing four skips for people to bring their stuff and save them a trip to the tip (many locals don’t have a car, so it’s very much appreciated). There was one last skip that needed filling, so a couple of us did that this morning. As the skip was loaded onto the truck and about to be driven away, I showed the driver a picture on my phone, and asked him if he’d seen it before. He said no, but the conversation that ensued led to me praying for him, exchanging numbers, and him expressing interest in doing an Alpha course.
I then showed the same picture to the guy who’d helped me fill the skip. He’s a lovely Hindu from India. We prayed together as well.
Then back home, the bell rang and I answered the door. I showed that lady the picture as well, and her English was very broken but we established that she was my catholic sister from Brazil, and parted joyfully.
And now I’ve just got off from a Zoom call with someone trying to sell me (good) stuff, at the end of which I asked if he’d mind me sharing with him for a few minutes. I pulled up the same picture again. Another great conversation ensued, at the end of which I prayed with and for him, and he agreed that when he was next in the area (he knew my address now because of what he was trying and succeeding in selling me), he’d come over for a beverage to talk further.
So what am I sharing with all these folks? Well, the picture I show them and the briefest summary outline of what I share is below:
Honestly, it’s so easy. And I’m genuinely not even that good at ‘doing’ it yet, as it’s a relatively new approach to me. But if you’re winsome, open, loving, respectful, it’s such fun – all four encounters today were so positive.
You could do this!
They were such simple encounters – with a truck driver, a man helping me fill a skip, a lady who knocked on my door, and someone selling me stuff – just day-to-day normal meetings.
So I’m offering and recommending you this simple conversation starter and tool. Let me say it again, you can do this!
A few Saturdays ago, 16 of us did it in the town centre, and in one hour we led 10 people to Jesus, including one Wiccan lady with her pentagram. People are spiritually hungry – not all by any stretch, but many – and they don’t want religion (yuck!), but many do want Jesus!
Why don’t you take an hour or so to memorise the script, check out these training/example videos, and then give it a go?!
In case you wanted some book recommendations, I thought I’d send a few your way:
A House Built on Love tells the stunning story of Founder Ed Walker’s journey in setting up Hope into Action, which has won secular awards as the nation’s best homelessness charity. I did a podcast with Ed which is also well worth listening to, click here: Apple Podcasts | Spotify
Eugene Peterson was a legend. A Burning in my Bones is his authorised biography, and is well worth reading to glean many gems from this remarkable man.
Guvna B and Michael Emmett’s stories make for challenging and stirring reading, and Katharine Hill’s A Mind of Their Own will hit the spot for many of us with kids struggling through their weird (post)lockdown times.
This is a guest blog by my Norwegian friend Arne. It’s something we’re looking to get involved in. It is so strategic, so empowering, so beautiful.
This short film (under 4mins) explains the concept:
Over to Arne:
Why do we think that the solutions for those who are poor in Africa are different from the solutions in the UK, USA and Norway? Every human throughout the world has God-given talents, as well as needs.
The need for a job, to feel wanted and valued, to provide for the family, and to have a relatively predictable and secure future – it’s the same for all human beings no matter where they live.
And the children need good role models of how to work to provide for the family, how to save and plan for the future, how to use and develop their own talents, how to be involved in community development and wealth creation, and finally how to submit to rules and authorities, and to God.
A transformed and sustainable Burundi is in need of transformed mindsets – a new way of building value-based foundations and strategies. We need to use methods bringing skills and a good character resulting in hope and a good future, one with dignity. If not, the next generations will find themselves in the same helplessness and hopelessness as is the case for many today.
So how can a bank (microfinance is like a small bank, but for the poor) be a tool for such a transformation? We say that everything we do, we do to improve the livelihoods of the rural poor people in Burundi. And to glorify Jesus by using our God-given talents as for God (Col 3.23).
We’ve been doing this in Burundi now for 10 years, training people and providing loans to start up new small businesses. We’ve learnt plenty of lessons, and now have just under 20,000 beneficiaries, with a loan repayment rate of 96%. That is truly wonderful and amazing, and so many lives have been empowered, transformed and given dignity. I have no doubt it is the way forward. Not handouts, but hand-ups. Not giving out fish, but teaching people how to fish. Not short-term but long-term.
“My biggest joy is that I now can afford education for my children,” says Odette. She lives in a remote village in Bubanza province where Hauge now is operating. I have never seen such a smile from people receiving aid, only when being enabled to climb out of poverty with new skills, with a strong character, and in a solidarity group with courage, hard work and unity.
Etienne is one of our customers in Hauge Family Microfinance. His village is cheering when he is showing the furniture he has made and is selling in his shop. He has become an entrepreneur and a leader for development in his local community. Three years ago, he received our training and a loan to buy logs. Today he has hired five people in the village to chop wood for him. A stable income has also made it possible to pay for his five children’s schooling.
Check out the episode of my podcast where I interviewed Arne – his vision blew my mind!