Crowns for Ashes
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me (has set me apart) to preach the good news to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord…
I will never forget the first time I went to Africa – I was in Liberia when the war was still raging, in a remote area, not far from where the battle was ruining lives like fodder behind a manure spreader. I was speaking to a lady whose downcast eyes told the story of her own decimation – rape, pillage, murdered children littered around her… I came to share the “good news”. I didn’t really believe it would be good news when I saw the horror of her own predicament. But as I stepped out in faith and shared, sure enough, I saw the lifting of her head and the lifting of her spirit to hope for hope.
In a land where the life expectancy is 38 years, where 25% of the children are orphans, where 70% of the population lives on less than $1 a day – it is a privilege to share good news with the truly poor and broken. You have never seen people so wanting to believe, desperate for good news!
Healing the brokenhearted is also our daily fare in the villages. Barbara is perhaps 25. Earlier this year her husband and 2 year old paddled across the river to go fishing. The Zimbabwean guards caught him too close to their shore and gave him the choice – a bullet to the brain or swim across. He and his son were never seen again. Barbara was pregnant at the time and now has lost her smile – with no support and no hope of a future. But it is beautiful to see the compassion of Christ reach through these human vessels to bring His love to ones like this.
A few weeks ago I got an email from the team – they were impressed to pray for a man they had heard had been attacked by demons in the night. In this land, after such an encounter you don’t just get up in the morning, shake it off like a bad dream and go to work. No! You are incapacitated for days, or weeks – you may even go crazy. You will probably be visited regularly afterwards with physical and mental symptoms. The simple prayer of faith “delivered the captive”! Now he is a disciple of Jesus without a scar.
We have been sharing the good news in these villages for two years now, and have carefully evaluated – about one person per 200-person village exhibited evidence of a living relationship with Jeus before we came. That is .5% of the population. Now, in the 7 villages we are actively working in we are walking with 48 people who are growing in grace and hunger for relationship with a living God. We are making an inroad into Satan’s Kingdom. Recovery of sight to the blind!
This next phrase that Jesus spoke to the Sabbath audience was a surprise – he had been Isaiah 61, when suddenly he inserted a phrase from Isaiah 58 –”to lift up those who are pressed down”(lit) – to bring justice to those who have no voice and no power. Has the Church of Jesus forgotten about Justice? If we are not the conscience of the world, who will be?! The orphans in these villages have no voice, no options, no power points, no control over their destiny – they are the flotsam of their society. It makes me laugh that God brought to us the most broken little orphaned girl in our 18 villages – and He is in the process of making her ”a display of His Splendor”!
The next verses disclose the vision we have for these villages – “He has sent me (us) to provide for all those who grieve in Zion, to give them crowns instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of tears of grief, and clothes of praise instead of a spirit of weakness. They will be called Oaks of Righteousness, the Plantings of the LORD, so that he might display his glory. They will rebuild the ancient ruins. They will restore the places destroyed long ago. They will renew the ruined cities, the places destroyed generations ago. You will be called the priests of the LORD. You will be called the servants of our God”.
If you have never had the privilege of pouring oil on these, the broken of the earth, I would invite you to come. Come with your crowns and oil and festive clothes; pour them out on the blessed weak, and take home a humility and brokenness that will never leave you. Put their photos on your fridge, near your mirror. Invest in them, advocate for them, pour out your love and life on them – you will be the benefactor and beneficiary at the same time.
- I don’t want to go back to Africa without taking along an office worker! Bookkeeping would be an added benefit. I know you are out there. IF YOU HAVE A HINT OF YEARNING FOR THIS, CONTACT ME NOW. $400/mo plus airfare (about $1500) for 3-6 months or more.
- We have a goal of another 50 regular supporters – will you prayerfully consider – even $50 per month. Go to www.PayPal.com and donate to firstname.lastname@example.org
- We need to start a board to cover our ministry – pray we find the right people.
- We sense there will be a movement towards developing schooling of some sort. Pray for God to lead someone with a passion for education who wants to give a year.
- We desperately need to build housing in the village for us staff – it is so difficult to live in tents there. Pray for finances for this.