First CAM Service & Baptism
Yesterday, two young men declared publicly, to the visible and invisible world, their belief in Jesus Christ and their determination to follow Him for the rest of their lives, and were baptized in front of 80 witnesses. What a glorious day!
Koureissi (left saved 10 days ago) and Simeon (right his first birthday) both gave a testimony before stepping into the basin to be baptized. On the left you see Emmanuel, who interpreted, and behind me Simon-Pierre, who was responsible for the sound system.
But let me first back up a little.
MEETING THE NEIGHBORS
A few days before the big day, I grabbed the little packets of tea every Malian drinks daily, some invitations, and Simeon who happened to be here, and I finally got out to meet the neighbors; something I had wanted to do for a while. We knocked at every door around the House, doing the whole block, and talked to a lot of people. Everybody was so touched that I'd care to come and introduce myself, wanting to know them and giving them a gift. We had some good conversations.
There are a lot of interesting people living around here, many in higher positions (since this is a nice neighborhood). Most everybody is Muslim, but we also met some Christians from the Congo. The most interesting family was the very last one, just across from the street. A very educated Malian couple that lived in Austria for 8 years (he with the UN, she a student), speaks fluent German, loves Austria and is good friends with my own friend and former Bambara-professor in Vienna. They immediately adopted me into their family and opened their house to me.
This is favor! And it's only the beginning!
THE BIG DAY FOR CENTRE APOSTOLIQUE MALIEN (CAM)
I will spare you all the details of the spiritual warfare going on leading up to this first service (including that very day), but I do thank you for your prayers that were answered!
The invitation was for four p.m., but I knew we wouldn't start until 4:30. And indeed, only the three whites came on time (which included some of my own people, unfortunately). I was especially pleased and honored that the leader of YWAM Mali Jean-Patrick Perrin had come and agreed to pray the prayer of consecration. We gathered inside to pray for the service, and Jean-Patrick joined us. We stood in a circle holding hands, and the presence of Holy Spirit became tangible.
Going back outside to get started, few people had arrived. However, by the time we closed the service, few seats were left.
Every person received a sheet with the words to the songs they would not know. I grabbed my guitar, Emmanuel at my side to join me in singing and to interpret for me. There was no nervousness, just joy. We started off with the song COME, singing it in French and Bambara, then BLESSED BE THE NAME, CRUCIFIED and some others. From time to time I spoke a few words of explanation, already presenting the gospel. After worshipping the Lord for half an hour (and most people there weren't Christians), I introduced myself and the church, telling them a little bit about where I came from and who the church is affiliated with. By now most people had arrived. Then I opened my Bible to preach about Philip and the eunuch. I shared about Philip, a man full of Spirit and wisdom, who did mighty signs and wonders for the Lord, and told them that that was what CAM was all about to preach the gospel and do the works of Jesus. I also shared about the eunuch, a man who was looking to know God, and who found Him and was baptized. That was the logical lead-over to the baptism. Koureissi and Simeon both gave their testimonies and were baptized.
I then called up Jean-Patrick and asked him to pray the prayer of dedication. Before he did, he commented on the two flags I had put on the pulpit a red one and a golden one talking about the blood and the glory. After his prayer, we moved the pulpit to the side, and I invited people to come forward if they wanted to know Jesus or be healed, or have prayer for anything else. No one moved, and it was a somewhat awkward moment. How I longed to pray for them all, and watch God touch them! (I guess we'll keep that for our evangelism outings )
I prayed a closing prayer and thanked God for the food that would arrive a few minutes later (the lady from the university's mess hall had prepared it). To bridge the waiting time, I grabbed my guitar again and we did some fast songs. Since Aisha has used my flags in worship before, I asked her to come forward, introduced her to everyone, and gave her a flag. Then I also invited the other kids to come and use them, and they all did. What a sight it was to see those kids waving my flags! Too bad it was too dark by then to take a picture.
Finally the food arrived. It was a special meal (couscous instead of rice), and everybody had his fill we had exactly enough for everyone.
As people were eating and talking, I walked around talking to everybody to find out who they were. Many were simply our neighbors that we had invited, but there was also my little Aisha with her Mom which was a special joy and a Christian friend whose kids come every Saturday so I can help them with schoolwork. Then there was a couple of the Christians from Congo who attend another church, and a young Dutch couple, new missionaries, who have become friends.
Slowly people started leaving, and it was time to clean up. Finally it was only the guard, Seybou, and his cousin Hassan left, and God opened the door for another good conversation as I testified to them about the great things the Lord has done in my life. They were amazed at what they heard! May the seed bring good fruit! (By the way, since talking with Seybou about smoking and me telling him it wasn't good, he's stopped!!!)
The big day was over, everything had worked out well. Yet, though the day we had been looking forward to for weeks had come and gone, it is really NOW that the work starts! We will continue having our service on Sunday afternoon, and we're going to start a mid-week Bible study & prayer meeting as well as Friday night movies outside shortly.
There are some interpersonal challenges, and Emmanuel has to leave for the rest of this year (to be with his family up north), which is a special challenge. All your prayers are greatly desired.
So what is our schedule like right now?
TUE English class
As you can see, I'm not getting bored ;-) I also continue teaching German at the High School Mon-Wed.
The next important step for CAM will be to obtain legal authorization for the church from the local authorities (then we can put a sign up), and to become a part of the association of churches in Mali.
The dedication celebration is over, but it's already time to think about Christmas. Initial expenses for the church (e.g. benches) have been much more than expected and have caused some financial strain. With my monthly support still being so far short of what is needed, I'm storming heaven to release everything necessary to do His work in Mali, and I know He will answer. Could you be part of the answer?
The harvest is ready and it's time to take it in! Let's go in the power of the Spirit to do what He has commanded us to do! I want to see hundreds and thousands of Malians coming into the kingdom, being saved and healed, and equipped to go out themselves. Is it possible? Absolutely! With God everything is possible!
Thank you for sharing in this task with me, whether by reading, writing, praying or giving. We are one body, and this little finger out here at the "end of the world" sure couldn't do it without the rest of the body.
Abundant blessings on each one of you!
Loving & serving HIM,
P.S. I do have more
pictures as well as a 50 min. video of the service. They will be made
available on the church's website. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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