Monday, 18 July 2011
From the Children of Medjugorje Newsletter
During the 70’s, in Germany. Monica was 17 when she lost her mother whom she loved very much. She was left behind with three siblings and her father who was a non-practicing protestant and an architect near Bonn. Monica detested her father. He had very little interaction with his children, so she found him cold, rigid, and insensitive. Since she was unable to connect with him on a heart level, she moved out at 17, using her studies as an excuse.
At the age of 20, she had a deep experience of God in her bedroom, and she conceived a great love for Jesus. Through some Protestant brothers, she understood that loving and forgiving her father are part of God’s commandments, you will honor you father and mother, so she made several attempts to do so. Eventually she offered to spend a vacation alone with him in the beautiful Swiss mountains. In the heart of this magnificent scenery, she discovered the truth about her father’s heart and started to love him. She also understood that his suffering was caused by a very difficult childhood. She forced herself to focus on the positive points of their relationship, rather than straining with the contentious ones. She also became aware of her own faults, the ones she had in common with her father; and she began asking him for forgiveness. She prayed and slowly discovered within her father a child capable of being in awe.
Then a providential event took place. She was with her father and his friends (who had, like him, run away from East Germany just before the closing of the Berlin wall) when her father became a different person. In a different context he was vulnerable, open, obviously his true self. Monica discovered everything he had suffered because of his exile and how he was forced to harden his heart in order to survive. She understood also how children can too quickly reject their parents and make them become as hard as marble. Monica’s heart opened to this “unknown” father and at last a dialogue started between them.
When she was 26, she was working as a nurse in a home for the elderly. She worked the night shift and often found herself alone in the service. Every two weeks, she visited her father. She worried about his loneliness.
At 77, her father enjoyed good health and there was no inkling of any medical condition. One day he went to the hospital for a minor overnight procedure. That same night, Monica was working the night shift when suddenly a strong feeling seized her. In her heart, she knew that she must go immediately to be near her father. At sunrise she got into the car and drove two hours non-stop at full speed in the rain and fog. She was going through an inner struggle, ‘I’m crazy, I could go see my father later, why should I go there now?’
However her intuition was too strong. She sensed that this encounter with her father would be important, and she began to pray. When she arrived in Bonn, instead of going to the hospital, she felt an urge to go first to her father’s house, without knowing why. The house was empty. Monica walked toward the armoire, opened a drawer and found a document unknown to her. She took it and quickly went to the hospital where she found her father in excellent condition. They opened the document together and found the diary that he had written when he was young.
They came upon a story of a hike that he had made with his friends when he was 17, during the War of 1940-1945. On that day, at the top of the mountain, her father and his friends had marveled at creation, as if they had seen the glory of God. The story was extremely moving. Monica and her father started to cry. For Monica, the moment was as if a corner of heaven was opened. The visit lasted 3 hours. The father-daughter relationship deepened and there was a true exchange of hearts.
Monica asked him if he would give his life to the Lord. Her father accepted and there they prayed together for the very first time! Since her father did not know how to pray, he asked her to say the prayers and he would repeat them after her. Monica began a spontaneous prayer, simple, as the Holy Spirit inspired her. A great union of hearts developed during that prayer too.
Taking advantage of the occasion, Monica told her father how much she loved him and she thanked him. It was a little like a declaration of love, sober but sincere. She asked his forgiveness for all the hurt that her attitude toward him might have caused. Then his roommate returned and her father walked his daughter to the door. From a distance he waved to her good-bye and Monica noticed a light surrounding him. Monica was full of joy and returned to work. Three days later she received a call from her brother saying that their father had just died very peacefully, alone.
Monica is now catholic. Her journey to forgiveness is encouraging! At times we feel unable to forgive a person who has hurt us. But doesn’t God offer each one of us a path of mercy and peace? We find it only kneeling down, in a heartfelt prayer. This reconciliation between Monica and her father is beautiful, but more beautiful still is the way Monica listened to the Holy Spirit and let Him guide her, without taking into account her feeling of repulsion towards her father. We depend too much on our feelings; we speak too much about them; we judge too much; we ‘ruminate’ and we constantly comment on evil; we feed upon sad stories. But happy are those who listen to the whisper of God in their hearts and who let the beautiful flower of forgiveness bloom, sprouting even in the middle of sordid garbage. Our garbage will pass but the flower and its fruits will remain. They come from God.
Thursday, 14 July 2011
"Praise the Lord! My name is Dolo Sono. I grew up in an area where nobody had ever heard of Jesus Christ, not even once in our lives. My fathers worshipped the spirits for countless centuries, and they encouraged me to follow them and become a priest of the Donyi-Polo (Sun-moon) religion. We didn’t know who the Creator was, so my tribe had no option but to worship His creation. We considered the sun and the moon our father and mother, giving sustenance and light to us.
My son developed a blood disease. He suffered terrible pain as his condition worsened over time. My wife and I could hardly stand to see the pain he was in. I called on the spirits to help, but he only grew worse. I visited other priests and asked them to pray for my son, but the more they prayed, the worse he became. Then, like a dagger through my heart, my precious son died. I was grief-stricken, and wept uncontrollably as I stared at my little boy’s lifeless body. I didn’t realize it at the time, but a Christian lived in a nearby village. When news spread that the Donyi-Polo priest’s son had died, the Christian came to my house and asked if he could pray for my son, who had been dead for four hours already. I didn’t see any harm in letting the follower of Jesus pray for him. He started to pray, and a short time later my boy suddenly came back to life! He sat up and was fine.
We later found that he was also completely healed from the blood disease that had caused him so much suffering! As you might imagine, when news of this great miracle circulated, everyone was amazed and rushed to our home to see my son for themselves. I didn’t know anything about Jesus, but from that moment I knew that He alone was the true God, and I decided I would serve Him for the rest of my life. The first thing I did was search for other Christians. I thought they must be really special and powerful people, because they followed the true and all-powerful God who has the power to bring the dead back to life and change people’s hearts on the inside. After searching far and wide, I was shocked to discover that there was just one church in my entire region, with only eleven people in it.
The eleven Christians were weak and persecuted. They met in a small, run-down building. I found this really sad. My own temple where I had served as a priest was beautifully decorated by comparison. I could scarcely believe that the followers of Jesus were so crushed and timid even though they possessed the Truth. My forefathers had followed Satan for centuries without any light from God. Those who followed lies were much larger in number than those who followed the Truth. This was wrong, and I decided to do something about it. From that day onwards I determined to help God’s Church grow.
From the day God raised my son from the dead, I started telling people about Jesus. This was the least I could do. I thought everyone would be excited to hear about Jesus, but I soon found that it made people angry. My own parents and family threatened to disown me if I continued to follow Jesus. I told them I must follow Him, because He is real and he raised my son from the dead! I started preaching everywhere I could, walking from village to village and encouraging people to abandon the false worship of our forefathers and to stop bowing down to the sun and moon. I didn’t know anything about the Bible, but I boldly testified to what had happened, and that Jesus alone was true and powerful. A short time later someone told me there were many Christians in Nagaland, a state south of Arunachal Pradesh. This news excited me, so I caught a bus there and met with many true believers in the Lord. Almost the whole of Nagaland was Christian, and I was greatly encouraged. I returned home with more Bible knowledge, and could better explain the gospel to people.
The tribes of Arunachal Pradesh have worshipped spirits and demons since the beginning of time. The only other religion that people respect is Buddhism, which came from Tibet many centuries ago. As I continued to preach about Jesus, I experienced many attacks and problems. People thought my conversion to Christianity had brought great disgrace on my ancestors, especially because I had been a priest. I was beaten on many occasions, and attacked with swords and spears, but God preserved my life, and there were always a few people interested in listening to my message. Jesus helped me so much in those early years. Once I visited some villages for the first time and found that God had prepared the people by giving them dreams in advance of my arrival. Because of this, the people were kind to me and listened to the Good News I had come to share. I believed everything the Bible said. I read that Jesus told his disciples to only take one coat with them when they went out to preach, so I only wore one shirt until it was filthy and covered with lice. The years went by and I was so glad that many more people in my tribe and other tribes started to follow Jesus too. In many places I saw people healed by the Lord and delivered from demons. Hundreds of people believed in God. In each place where people decided to follow Jesus, we organized small house groups for them to meet together in.
A strange thing happened right at the time when God was moving so powerfully and saving many people. Other Christian leaders started to attack me and tried to stop me preaching. They said I was not qualified to preach, because I had never been to a seminary. I told them it was a shame I didn’t fit into their mould, but that there was no way I could stop preaching because Jesus was in my heart and He must come out! This only seemed to make these religious people angrier and they even traveled around different villages, telling lies about me and warning people not to listen to me. People in many places turned against me and refused to welcome me.
God encouraged me from the Bible, as I read how many of His children in other times had experienced similar opposition from those who claim to be His followers. Jesus was always attacked by the Pharisees, and I realized that there were many people like Pharisees operating in Arunachal Pradesh. I wept many times because of the lies being spread and the great opposition. I became depressed. Then one night I had a dream where I heard a voice saying, "Dolo Sono, I have called you to preach. Get up and preach!" I replied, "But no churches want me any more. The religious people have told the unbelievers not to listen to me. What is the point?" I then heard the Lord say, "God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble."
After this dream I knew that I could no longer bow to the threats and intimidation. I read in the Bible that if God is with me, who can be against me? I obeyed the Lord and started preaching again, and God helped me and opened many doors and opportunities. In many villages, people who had worshipped the sun and moon were saved and Jesus entered their hearts. For years now I have been travelling all over Arunachal Pradesh. People know me as the former Donyi-Polo priest who found the true Way. By the power and grace of the Living God we now have more than 60 fellowships, and more people are meeting Jesus all the time. Please pray for our state, and the 60 tribes who live in it. Please pray that everyone in Arunachal Pradesh would soon love Jesus. Thank you and God bless you!"
Monday, 11 July 2011
One of the most remarkable stories of how God is using humble, simple-hearted Christians to build His kingdom on Hainan Island was related by Carl Lawrence in his book “The Coming Influence of China.” Lawrence recounts how, in the mid-1990s, two young women came to faith in Christ in another Chinese province after hearing the Gospel via shortwave radio broadcasts.
The two new believers received Bibles and immediately wanted to serve God with all their hearts. A Hong Kong-based pastor met with the two and tried to teach them that they should remain where they were and minister to their neighbors. The girls protested, “No! The Bible you gave us says Jesus told us to go into all the world. We want to go.” Finally the pastor, feeling ashamed at his own comparative lack of zeal, relented and told the girls there was a need for workers on Hainan Island.
The duo had never heard of Hainan Island before but were certain God wanted them to preach the Gospel there.
Two years later the girls returned to the Chinese mainland where the pastor met with them. He had not heard any news since their departure. The Hong Kong pastor used the meeting to introduce the girls to several visiting Western church leaders. After introductions, the girls were asked how their work had been and whether or not they had been able to start any churches. Lawrence explains, “The women put their heads down and answered, ‘Oh pastor, we have only been there two years...yea, two years. Not many. Not very many’. Their voices were apologetic. ‘We have only been there a short time. The people were not very friendly, no, not very friendly. Sometimes they became very vicious. Yes, sometimes they told us they were going to drown us in the ocean. Several men threatened us. Oh my, and because we were so young, even some of the ladies did not like us. Yes, some even called us terrible names... so not many churches... no, not many’.”
Finally, after being asked again by the frustrated pastor, the girls apologized that they had been only able to start 30 churches since their arrival on Hainan Island!
The pastor and his Western friends were taken aback by the news. They asked how many people attended their new churches. After again going through a process of apologies and self-effacing comments, they answered, “Two hundred and twenty.” The listeners presumed that meant the girls had won a total of 220 converts in their 30 churches, but 220 was the number of members in the smallest of their churches! “How many people do you have in the largest of your churches,” the pastor demanded to know. “Oh...not many.... Less than five thousand.
Only four thousand nine hundred. Yes, less than five thousand. We have just started.” The Western visitors were so touched by the humility and zeal of the two young ladies that they began to weep. One of the visitors told the pastor to ask the two ladies how they managed to achieve such great results.
“What did we do? Why nothing. Yes, we did nothing, nothing.” The amazed onlookers protested, “You did nothing? You have thirty churches – the smallest with two hundred and twenty people, the largest with almost five thousand new Christians! And you did nothing?”
The two evangelists simply said, “We just prayed.... After we prayed, the Holy Spirit would tell us exactly what to do. We would keep praying and He would tell us what to do, we would do it. Then we would pray again and he would tell us what to do again.
Note: When we first read this story of the two faithful girls, we were not sure of the story’s accuracy, as it almost sounded too good to be true. We sent the story to a friend who is an expert on the church in Hainan Island. Somewhat surprisingly, our informant responded that indeed the story is true, these two young women had done great exploits and planted many churches in the face of great opposition and struggle. They primarily worked in southern Hainan Island, including several counties around Sanya City. However, our friend also added that because of a lack of follow up and discipleship, that much of the fruit had been lost to cults, and that by 1999 perhaps “only” 5,000 of the duo’s converts remained true believers.
Friday, 8 July 2011
A remarkable testimony occurred when new house church believers traveled to a Hainanese village in Lingao County, in the northern part of Hainan Island, in November 1995. The church planting team arrived in one village to preach. The local people said there was no way they would believe in the Christian God because they already worshipped the most powerful spirits.
The locals gave a stern warning to the evangelists. They said that the village shaman (witchdoctor) had, six years previously, received a vision that Christianity was the one true religion. This man was so convinced that he immediately burned all his spirit charms and other paraphernalia, even though he had not yet heard the Gospel and was not a believer. As soon as he did this, the people said, the shaman started to have visions where he saw many demons flying at him to eat his internal organs and completely destroy him. He was so scared that he tore his clothes off, ran around naked, and went insane. He also lost the ability to speak. The shaman would pick up stones and throw them into the air, throwing the stones at the demons that were tormenting him. He lived in a hut with a thatch roof and walls so soon his rock throwing and other antics had completely knocked away the roof of his home. His life had become pitiful. He was exposed to the elements, naked, unable to speak, and completely tormented by demons.
The shaman was only kept alive by the kindness of the local people. Every night they would place some rice and other food outside his door for him to eat. The villagers said that the shaman’s experiences were proof that their local spirits were more powerful than the Christian God, so they told the evangelists not to waste their time, for they would never believe in the Christian God. They said if the Christian God was truly able to heal and deliver this man, then they would all know that Jesus is the true and only God.
The evangelists were new believers. When they heard this story they didn’t know what to do, so they returned home. Over the coming weeks the church started to pray and fast for this village and for the shaman, asking God to glorify His Name among the villagers because His Name was being defamed.
The evangelists were taught how to cast out demons. They then returned to the village and cast the demons out of the man. Immediately he regained his speech. They clothed him and helped him rebuild the roof of his home.
After hearing the Gospel, the ex-shaman became a Christian. When they saw the tremendous change in the man’s life, almost the entire village became Christians. The new believers then took the Gospel to the neighboring village and the vast majority of that village also believed.
As a testimony to God’s power over the forces of darkness, the Christians began to meet for worship and Bible study in the home of the ex-shaman! He was not the church leader himself, but his powerful life-changing experience was the catalyst for many to come into the Kingdom of God, and for the Name of Jesus Christ to be rightfully honored among the people in that area.
Thursday, 7 July 2011
Have you ever been in a situation where you feel alone, lost, darkness all around and thought God had forgotten you existed?
We all experience times like these. I will never forget my own a few years ago while in South Africa visiting my parents.
The ten-day vacation was coming to an end and I expected to be home in the States within the three days. Unfortunately, the staff of the airline I was to travel on went on strike, resulting in no flights coming to or leaving South Africa.
Initially, I was not concerned. Surely, I thought, this will resolve itself within the next three days. But no, it did not resolve. It went on for weeks.
Panic set in because I needed to get back to the States as work and family were waiting for me. I prayed and prayed, begging God to intervene in the strike so that I could fly home. Daily I called the airlines. There was never any change.
Finally, after two long weeks of striking, a few flights left South Africa. But by this time there was such a backlog of passengers camped out at the airport that it would be weeks longer before I was able to leave.
Still, I could not wait any longer. I had to get home. I presented my problem to the Lord once more. And, in faith, took action on my request to Him.
My parents took me to the airport, which was a good two-hour drive. Not knowing what to expect when I got there, I planned to join those sleeping on the floor hoping to get a flight out.
We arrived at the airport and it brought my stomach to my throat. The sight of the throngs was too awful to bear!
"We're just going to turn around now and return home," my mom said.
My dad, on the other hand, is one of those old time believers in God's amazing work in the worst of situations.
"I think she should just step out in faith and see what happens," he said.
We parked miles away and fought the crowd to the terminal. People were sleeping, standing, camping out in the terminal. No line was moving. I had no idea where to go to even begin to put my name on a waiting list.
And then God intervened, as He always does in such circumstances. There I was standing with my huge suitcase, in the middle of the crowd, totally dazed, not knowing where to turn, when one of the airport attendees suddenly reached for me and asked, "Where are you going?"
I said, "New York."
He replied, "Come with me." He picked up my suitcase and escorted me right to the front of the line, leaving everyone else yelling and cursing at me. He waited with me at the counter and helped me get on a flight. The flight had one seat open to New York.
After checking in, I went to find my parents, who were still in shock at what they had just witnessed. My dad, tears running down his face, smiled and hugged me, saying, "Well? Once again, all you had to do was step out in faith, making your requests known to Almighty God and He answered. But you had to act on your faith. Why do we doubt God?"
Looking back over the whole situation, my faith in God increased tremendously. What happened? Why was I chosen out of the crowd? I will never know why, but I can only say that God took this situation to prove to me that He knows who I am, that He alone can work out the toughest challenges in our lives. He knew I had to get home to fulfill commitments in the church. I asked and He answered.
There are times when we have to take God at His word when He says He will make a way in the wilderness when there is no way. We have to physically move forward, taking up our baggage, trusting that He is who He says He is.
Was the gentleman in the airport who took me out of the crowd an angel? I don't think so. He was looking in the crowd for someone to put on the flight. God helped him to pick me.
We miss out on so many blessings when we say, "The situation is impossible." We must come to the realization that our God is a God who transcends the impossible. We need to step out in faith, knowing He hears our cry.
What do you need to ask God for today? And then how do you need to take action?
East Rockaway, NY
Friday, 1 July 2011
When some house church preachers visited one district, a strange occurrence happened. While they spoke, the crowd was able to see images of what the preachers were speaking about at the time. Witnesses said it was as though a slide projector or video was playing in midair, even though the evangelists were employing no such device.
When they spoke about the crucifixion, everyone present – believers and unbelievers alike – saw a gripping image of Jesus hanging on the Cross with His Blood flowing down. When they said, “Jesus was born in a manger” they saw a picture of a manger in front of them. This continued for more than four hours, and was witnessed by more than 1,000 people. Almost everybody repented and dedicated their lives to follow Jesus Christ. They said, “God is real and lives among you. What can we do except thank Him and believe in Him?”