Thursday, August 25, 2011

Out of Africa...but Africa is Now in Me!

Too much time has passed since I last posted on this blog six weeks ago. I must say that during that time I was privileged to have experienced a trip that changed my life and deepened my walk with God unlike any other. My missionary brother, Donovan Barron, was right when he told my daughter, Amber, and me that this would be an experience of a life time. So this post will be long enough to make up for all the weeks I missed!

My great friend, Carol Winkles, boarded a plane with Amber and me on Aug. 10 as we headed to Kenya for what proved to be a life-changing experience that we will never forget. We first stopped in Amsterdam for a layover where I was praying that God would show me where to plant the 4 Spiritual Laws tract written in English and Dutch. Everyone needs the peace and joy I have found in Jesus, but not everyone is ready or open to that. I did not want to just give it to anyone if they were not being stirred by the Holy Spirit. We met a young man on the plane whose family is from Holland; he was en route to start college there. As we were waiting to exit the aircraft, I gave him one and said, “Here’s a little gift for you.” He read the title, smiled and thanked me. He continued to read it. I said, “You can share that with your family here, too.” He thanked me again and said, “I think I will.” Praise God for little opportunities to plant seeds in Europe!

On to Nairobi. We stayed the first night at the Methodist Guest House, where we had our last hot shower of the whole trip! The next morning Bishop Shadrach Oloo, pastor of Agape Church in Nakuru, drove us and our host pastor, Zachariah Shahasi of Living Way Foursquare Church on our 2 hour journey to Nakuru. Since we had arrived in the dark the night before, this was our first time to see the sights of Kenya and start taking in the atmosphere of the culture. Wow! Poverty was to a new level. In America, there are some areas where there are slums, but for the most part you don’t see poverty. In Kenya, it is the opposite. Road conditions were sometimes so treacherous with the percentage of pot holes being 80-90% of the road. So many people walked leaving paths next to the road everywhere I looked.

We stopped at the Living Way orphanage on the way to Nakuru where they do not have electricity or running water. They gave us a “presentation” when we got there and sang glorious songs praising Jesus. We gave them a little lesson about God not leaving us and taught them a song. Then we got out a little 7” DVD player and showed the Jesus Film for children. They were glued to the screen. We passed out sock puppets (made by the Girls Ministry of the AG in Georgia) filled with goodies like stockings at Christmas. They loved it. Thus began my change of heart already. Never again will I take a toilet (rather than an outhouse with a hole in the ground) or a hot shower for granted!

We got to Nakuru at Pastor Zachariah’s house where his niece and friend were waiting to serve us. (They cooked for us every evening. I ended up loving most Kenyan food.) His house was probably considered upper class compared to the housing we saw on our journey. However, even then, water only runs 3 or 4 days a week. We often had to manually pour water in the toilet to flush it. It was either that or a trip to the outhouse to use a hole in the ground. To bathe, we boiled water and added some cold water in a pitcher to pour over our heads.

Saturday we went to minister at a breakfast for area pastor’s wives and women in the ministry. What a blessing to enter the room ahead of time where about a dozen of them were already worshiping and crying out to God to touch the meeting! We sensed God’s presence strongly. Originally I was supposed to speak there, but God gave Carol a message weeks earlier, so I told her to speak and that I would greet them. Amber danced to the Vicki Yohe song, “Your Presence Amazes Me!”; appropriate indeed! I prayed about what verse in the Bible to greet them with. It ended up that Carol had already gotten a prophetic word from God that she wrote down ahead of time; she used it to end her message. It started with the exact verse I used to greet the ladies! What are the odds? With God there are no coincidences! :) We had sweet prayer time with the ladies. We were able to bless the ladies with jewelry donated by ladies in America. We had just the right amount with enough left over to give to ladies who would host us for the duration of our trip...the exact amount in fact! We were also able to bless them with reading glasses that someone donated with eye charts to see what strength they needed. They were thrilled that they could now read and study their Bibles! The pastor’s wife who was the leader of the group told us afterward that 2 ladies shared with her that they had decided to quit the ministry, but because they attended the breakfast, they changed their minds!

Sunday was a great day of ministry as I was assigned to go to a different church than originally planned. Amber and I went to Agape Church as a “thank you” to Pastor Oloo for driving us. Carol ended up speaking at the Living Way church where I was scheduled to speak. God was definitely making the plans as the Agape church was a bit more “western” in worship with a combination of African, Swahili songs along with Hillsong-type English worship. Their congregation was just the right place for Amber to dance to Nicole C. Mullens’ “My Redeemer Lives!” They loved it and even had her dance it a 2nd time after I preached. I was totally amazed at my God as I listened to the lyrics of each worship song and excitedly told the pastor, “That song goes exactly with my message!” At the end of the service, I was honored to be able to pray for people in a prayer line. I saw broken hearts mended (that was the theme of my message), people baptized gloriously in the Holy Spirit, people giving forgiveness as they released those who offended them, and people receiving forgiveness from God. Awesome time! After the service, they took us in a room and served us a delicious meal of goat stew and rice followed by a serving of Kenyan tea. At the same time, Carol preached a message at the other church about facing your giants where 3 people gave their hearts to God and the altar was full of others giving their giants to God.

After our goat stew meal, there was no time to rest and prepare for the Sunday night service at Living Way where I found out the night before that I was preaching for. On the way to Living Way, I thought, “I’ll just preach what I did this morning.” I heard the Lord tell me in my spirit, “No. That was for Agape Church not Living Way.” I then was going through a file I grabbed with past sermons that I brought just in case I needed them. When we got there, I still was not sure which one I was going to deliver. Worship was already going strong in the big tent church with very traditional African worship--no English. God knew Amber’s song would not have fit in there. I finally grabbed the message I felt God wanted me to deliver, and I watched as Carol smiled real big many times and shook her head. Come to find out, I did not know it at the time, because I had not read her message ahead of time, but I ended up preaching about half of her message she gave that morning to the same congregation! Go God! :) Can you see already why this trip changed our lives? This was only day 3! We had 5 more incredible days ahead!

Monday was a day of rest for Amber and me, but Carol went with a pastor and his wife to do outreach in the slums of Nakuru. This pastor’s family live in and have a church right in the middle of the slums. She took the 4 Spiritual Laws tracks in English/Swahili and saw God move in mighty ways in people to whom they were able to minister. Many gave their lives to Christ. One lady that was addicted to alcohol was changed and did not want Carol to leave. Carol got an email since coming home from the pastor saying that many of the people they ministered to came to church on Sunday. Only God can truly transform a life and break strongholds of addictions! Christ truly transforms lives!

We were blessed on Tuesday to go on a Safari. Even then, we saw God orchestrating it. We thought we were just going to have a driver and us, but the pastor that took Carol to the slums along with another friend ended up going with us. It was a good thing, because our safari van got stuck in the mud, and the 2 guys who originally weren’t supposed to be with us got out and pushed it out. I could just imagine the 3 of us getting out with all the wild animals pushing a van out of the mud! Afterward, we treated the men to an all-you-can-eat buffet at a local hotel for just a little over $5 a person. While we were eating, Pastor Zachariah called and said, “Tammy, you have to leave now and go to this church where the pastor wants you to pray for his church.”

I said, “Can we go later this afternoon?”

“Oh no,” he responded, “He has been calling me for the last 2 hours. His church is all there waiting for you to give them a message. They have cooked a meal for you!”

“Are you serious??” I exclaimed, “We just ate a buffet! Can we go to your house first and change into dresses?” (I knew that in their culture, women were looked down on if they wore pants in church, especially if they were to minister!)

He said, “No, we don’t have time! I’ll explain to them that you just came from a Safari.”

We were then taken to a village called Pipe Line to a little church called Jesus Manifestation Foursquare Gospel Church. When we got out of the van, we were greeted by all these little kids who dressed up for our visit. We went into the little metal building church that held about 30 people where African worship was already going strong! They escorted us to the chairs of honor in the front. I didn’t even have my Bible. Carol got hers out of her back pack and passed it down to me. I prayed, “Wow, God! What message do you want me to tell these people?” He gave it to me on the spot! Titus 2:11-13. I said, “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all people. (pause for interpreter) It has appeared to us in America (pause); it has appeared to you in Kenya (pause) and that same grace has brought us together.” They then cheered! I kept going with the passage that talks about eagerly awaiting the blessed hope of the return of Christ. I told them I was amazed at how eagerly they were awaiting us, and how we need to all the more be eagerly awaiting Jesus’ return. I took them to the end of Revelation where Jesus promises to come one day and where it says “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come quickly, Lord Jesus!’ ” Carol then took the mike and exhorted them with a great message about God looking at their heart and how special they were. They had all the people come down to the front for us to pray for and then they took us outside for a special ceremony where they planted a tree in honor of their guests coming! WOW! I kept thinking, “What just happened?!” All that was topped with another meal that we had to eat so we wouldn’t offend them. God gave us grace to be able to fit in more chicken and rice!

The next day we loaded an African shuttle full of fellow believers and headed 7 hours away to Migori where we visited another orphanage and Carol and I both spoke for the National Foursquare Gospel Convention. The shuttle had seats that just covered our bottoms and half our thighs so more seats could be added. It was a tight fit, but full of joy as the passengers sang worship songs most of the way. We were privileged to stay with a lady named Pastor Ann on her plantation. We called her Aunt Jemima. We did not have electricity or running water. We had a kerosine lamp like the 1800’s. The hospitality was incredible. She and the 3 ladies who helped serve were so grateful to get the last 4 gifts of jewelry. They wore them with pride!

The conference was great. I think I had more fun preaching there than ever! I greeted them and told them that 25 years ago I married into a Foursquare Gospel family; that my father-in-law was a retired Foursquare pastor and my brother-in-law is currently a Foursquare pastor. Before I got up to speak, Bill had just texted me and told me he was fasting and praying for me and the conference, so I was able to then say, “My husband is not a pastor, but he is a mighty man of God, and he is fasting and praying for me and for this conference.” I think that helped them to receive from me more. God truly spoke through me as I encouraged pastors to keep going and encouraged the body that they, too, were ministers of the Gospel. Carol also did a great job the next morning. Someone asked her if she could come back and do workshops for the pastors in the future. I laughed as I remembered that when we were planning the trip back home she said she did not preach. She only ministered to women and outreach on the streets. I knew better. I told her she better be ready! As long as she has the approval of her husband and the people want her (so she doesn’t “usurp authority”), she has an open door to speak. I saw God’s call on her to speak years ago, and now she’s preaching in Africa!

Again, we were able to bless the pastors and others there with reading glasses and they were grateful. We were probably more touched than they were. There are even more details of the trip that I did not include. Besides times of ministry, we also had great times of laughter like no other trip. It was like the joy of the Lord was our strength the whole time. We were kept safe and healthy.

On the way home, we stopped in Rome, where I again prayed to God to let me know who to give the 4 Spiritual Laws in English/Italian. I gave it to one cashier at gift shop and she thanked me. She then told her fellow cashier, “Look what she gave me!” I told her, “You can have one, too.” They both seemed interested and happy to get it. At one point I had one more to give. I was going to give it to another cashier at another shop, but felt in my spirit that he was not ready for it. Amber told me she was thinking the same thing. Right before we boarded our flight home, we met this elderly lady in the bathroom. She carried a long conversation with me in Italian that I did not know what she was saying. I gave her the tract and told her it was for her. A lady in line interpreted for me. The older lady read the title out loud and exclaimed, “Grazie!” with a huge grin. Again, thank God for the opportunity to plant a few seeds in Europe!

What an experience! I am grateful to our families for letting us take 10 days away to go on this incredible journey. I will never be the same! Thank you, God for new perspectives that will affect my ministry forever! I was in a dry time in my spiritual walk before the trip. Now it’s like I’m swimming in the ocean! Lord, help me to remember that and hang on to it for the dry times that will come in the future.

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