The Fathers Love In Mali
It's so simple. God loves us. He has loved us since before we were born. He loved us when we didn't know him, when we didn't want to know him, when we were still His enemies. That didn't change His love for us EVEN AN INCH. He loved us then as much as He loves us now. His love for us does not depend on our actions, our words, our successes or shortcomings. Yes, He rejoices, and yes, He grieves but His love for us is still the same. Nothing we do will ever change the depth and the vastness of His love for us. It's so huge that He left His glory to become one of us and die in our place. Before He ever knew whether we'd appreciate His sacrifice! Wow!
What love our heavenly Father has for us! How His heart longs for us! How He longs to be with us, to take us into His arms, to simply love on us, have fellowship with us. And how He longs to gather those who are yet unaware of His great love for them. My heart burns for them; my whole being yearns to proclaim the good news everywhere, to show the way to the Father, to gather His children into His fold. To be His reflection, His hands and feet, His mouthpiece and the channel of His love.
Tonight my heart is full to overflowing! I'm overwhelmed by the love of my Father and by what He's done tonight. I had already felt to wait until after the service today to write my update to you, but little did I know why.
THIRD CAM SERVICE TONIGHT
Even as the service is over and I contemplate everything, the Lord is opening my understanding to His purposes and showing me glimpses of the fulfillment of prophetic promises as I understand a little more. I still have this promise for the year 2004, and it might very well be it will be fulfilled on the very last day of the year (see below); wouldn't THAT be just like God!
While the first service, with baptism and banquet, drew about 80 people, the second and third service were a lot smaller, as expected. But it's not gonna stay small for long it's only the beginning! At both services we had between 15 and 20 kids and about 8 adults (and not everyone we expected came).
3 p.m. Simeon arrives. Emmanuel had to return to His hometown ten days ago (he returns in January), and Simon-Pierre has exams next week and can't come today. So it's just Simeon and me, and we don't have an interpreter (Simeon is from Benin). Together with the guard, Seybou, we put everything up for the service the benches, pulpit, sound system etc.
3:30 Everything is set up and it's time to breathe in and pray together. I've prepared for us to take communion together before the service. After we've both prayed, we partake of bread and wine. I slide down on my knees in deep adoration.
4 p.m. The sun is still strong (thankfully it's December) and the tent-like roof still not installed to protect people from the heat (the guy should have done so two weeks ago!). Some kids started calling us and looking inside before 4 o'clock. Tearing ourselves away from our communion with God, we step outside to get started. I open the door to the garden wide, so everybody understands they're welcome to join us. Kids start streaming in and sit down. A few days ago there were a couple of kids playing in front of the House. Every time I see kids, I just want to hug them and love on them. I starting talking to them and memorizing their names. Then I went inside and came back out with little gifts they greatly appreciated. Some of them have come back to visit. And now there were sitting on the benches ready for the service. Unfortunately my little Aisha didn't come tonight. Last week I had put a flag in her hands and she had danced during worship, and the other kids had joined her. What a sight! The picture shows her with her friends.
Simeon had the little booklets
in hand I've put together with the words to the songs we sing. Most of them I
translated into French (and some also into Bambara) from English; however,
not everyone can read. The official number is that more than half the men and
two thirds of women are illiterate.
After the time of worship through singing, I shared a few minutes on the blessing of giving. I had printed out a verse on giving with a nice frame around on cardboard and asked who wanted it. The 14-year old took it. Then we passed a little golden box so they get a chance to worship by giving; but those kids, young believers and unbelievers, haven't grasped the concept yet (it remained empty).
After the announcements (see below), it was time for God's word. With the kids hardly speaking any French, it grieved me not to have an interpreter. Until Sekou (who came to the Lord three weeks ago) offered to try. I agreed. The verse above was my main verse, preaching on God's love for us today, and our love for Him and others next week. As I was preaching, it was awesome to watch how Holy Spirit was in control. With close to 20 kids in front of me (between 3 and 8), I adapted my language and made it more interactive and the adults appreciated that as well. I'm in awe how the Lord spoke through me. Yes, I had prepared, had some main points jotted down and passages to read, but I didn't know beforehand how Holy Spirit would bring the word forth. Wow!
The best was to be at the end. This summer, while in the US, I discovered "felt", i.e. huge fabric landscapes of different kind with all these Bible figures and objects to tell stories with. You simply put them on there and they stick. Since that is something independent of language, and kids are visual everywhere, I fell for it. As I was preparing for today, I felt it was time to try it out. So, as I was drawing to a close, telling about the Father's great love, having presented the gospel very clearly, we moved the board to the front and I started telling the story of the prodigal son. All eyes were fixed on the board and captivated by the story.
And then something beautiful happened. I've been wondering about how to reach women, which is difficult. Suddenly two women stood at the door and thankfully were invited in by the others. I was already nearly done with the story, but they loved it so much, smiling the whole time! It was a lady my age with a baby, and a teenage girl. The were both street vendors those that walk through the streets all day long with in this case their manioc on their head that they sell to anyone who stops them.
The story came to an end, board and pulpit were moved to the side, so that only the plastic mats were left on the floor in the front. As usual, I made an altar call that included everyone; in this case those who didn't know the Father as well as those who wanted to know His love more.
The other day I had talked to Simeon about being an example others would follow; for example during worship since I play the guitar, I can't show them how to praise God raising hands, clapping and dancing. So, Simeon was the first one to come down front for prayer. Immediately most of the kids followed. Since Simeon knelt down, they all knelt down beside him. I prayed for Simeon, then sat down and talked to the first kid. Thankfully Sekou kept interpreting; it's frustrating not to speak Bambara better. I asked the little boy if he wanted to know the Father and if he wanted God to be His friend. He said yes. Then I asked whether he'd repeat a prayer after Sekou to tell God that and he said yes again. So I prayed a simple prayer and the little boy repeated it. Then I prayed for him that the Lord would fill him with His love, reveal Jesus in increasing measure to Him and protect him. It was so awesome! I love those kids! One after another prayed that same prayer, asking God to be his friend.
The teenage boy (left picture) who had come for the first time also came forward for prayer. When Malians come to the Lord, they take on Christian names, and he gave me a Christian name. I prayed for him and found out later he goes to another church further away in the morning, but lives nearby.
And the two ladies (the only ones) that had come so late both came to the front also. And both also wanted to give their lives to the Lord. I explained again what it meant since they had missed the explanation earlier. The lady with the baby repeated the prayer after Sekou, and then I prayed for her and her baby. The teenage girl (picture to the right) barely spoke Bambara. She was Dogon (like Emma) and like my guard, Seybou. So I asked Seybou to come translate into Dogon, and he did. But Dogon dialects can be very different, and it was still somewhat hard, but she repeated after Seybou (who is not even a Christian yet!). I told both women to come back next Sunday and any time they like. Of course, communication would be somewhat hard at least verbal communication.
Tonight I prayed with about 10 kids and 2 adults to give their lives to the Lord. I know it will be gradual as they learn more about HIM every week. Sekou also comes to receive prayer every week and I can see how he slowly grows to love the Lord more and serve Him more seriously. I could see God touch him tonight as I prayed for him. He afterwards said that he felt the joy of the Lord.
Simeon keeps evangelizing Bamako on a daily basis (even though we don't see any tangible fruit of that in the service yet) and has more and more stories of prophetic evangelism to tell. It is awesome how the Lord speaks to him in dreams and visions and shares information with him about people he then passes on that lead people to stand in awe at least of the God of Simeon.
FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE NIGHT
The screen is finally ready so we can start the movie nights on Fridays. Word is already spreading all around us, as people love watching movies. There is a paper on my door and just today somebody passing by and reading it asked whether it was free. Yes free and dangerous ;-). This Friday we're showing the movie THE BIBLE (creation until Abraham & Isaac). Since it's in English, I will interpret the whole movie simultaneously. In the future we will also show MATTHEW, JOHN, ACTS, THE PASSION, TRANSFORMATION and whatever else we can find that lead people to the Lord. Unfortunately I hardly have any movies in French.
CHRISTMAS LOVE TO THE POOR
Recently God spoke to me very clearly reminding me of the people living on the garbage dump and the desire was born to go to those poorest of the poor on Christmas to show them God's love by giving them a meal, clothes and toys.
We've done some research and discovered that thanks to many NGOs, all people living on the dumps have been removed and put into unfinished houses instead. In fact, when you walk the streets in my area, you will be surprised how many of the unfinished houses have families live in them. Often the owners run out of money before the building is done, and obviously those families are welcome to stay there. Sometimes those buildings don't even have roofs! And of course no other comforts like water or electricity.
So we have adjusted to the changed situation. Instead of us going to the dumps, we will go to those houses and invite them to come to us. Simeon is inviting them in advance and on the 25th he will be leading them to the House, where they will receive a great meal. After the meal, I will tell them the good news and invite them to know Jesus and to receive prayer for healing or whatever else they need. Then they will all receive clothes and toys as gifts. The Christian school here in Bamako (where the missionary kids go) is collecting clothes and toys for us.
HEALING SERVICE DEC 31st
The 31st of December is a Friday, which means a movie night. God spoke to me about that night to show footage from my trip to Malawi with Todd Bentley. We will show everyone cancers healed, HIV healed, paralytics walk, deaf hear, etc. I've shown it to believers and unbelievers before, and it's incredible how the faith level rises. After the video, I will preach the gospel and share about healing, leading into a time of prayer for the sick. We've already started telling everyone to bring sick people that night. May He come in power to confirm His word!
FAITH BIBLE COLLEGE EBFM
With Emmanuel out of town, Bible School continues with Simeon and Simon-Pierre only. Simeon is so hungry to learn, we could do a question-answer time only. Not only do they love learning all this stuff, but I enjoy teaching them more than I thought I would. The most time-consuming part is translating all the materials into French.
We have a lot of new people join the English class, as everyone wants to learn English. The class starts with us singing a worship song in English, me praying in English (eventually them) and teaching them some Christian vocabulary, before really starting the class itself. About half the people are Christians, the others Muslim.
Every Saturday morning three kids come to my house who have lots of problems in school, with all kinds of subjects. So I help them, explain everything, every Saturday for three hours. I'd love to open that up to more kids, but that would require some more teachers. Pray they will be found. What a great way to reach our neighborhood!
I've done some movie nights inviting my students to the House to watch an Austrian movie (SISSI) in German. They've all loved the movie, though they understand little, and want to come back to see the second one. As they come here, they don't only get to know me better but find out about the church. May many more students be drawn to the Lord!
As you can see, life has become very busy, but I love it. And we haven't even started the mid-week Bible study and prayer meeting yet.
Life is not only busy, but it has been pretty challenging relationally, as the enemy tries to counterattack. Yet, He is faithful and as long as we throw ourselves on Him, He takes care of it all.
Right now, the biggest challenge is the lack of finances. It's awesome all that God is doing and it's only just the beginning but we cannot keep going unless God grips his children's heart with His love for Mali and what He wants to do in this country. Who would want to sow into this soil? Who would want to partner with us to reach this nation with the love of God? Who would partner with us to give on a monthly basis? It doesn't matter if it's "only" $10 ..
Let me share some immediate needs in case God is speaking to you (just the main ones):
340 ($450) December rent
Will lack of money keep us from announcing the good news? Never! The harvest is ready let's go bring it in!
All for HIM,
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IMPORTANT: Don't write my name on the check, but add
a note that it's for me.