Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Happy Chinese New Year!

One year ago, we celebrated Chinese New Year in Italy. Our Asian students prepared a special celebration for us. We were invited to help with decorations, make dumplings, and then enjoy a meal before watching a presentation on the holiday. And--we were strongly advised--we must wear red.

Our students then fanned out into town, found a small Chinese community, and invited them to join us.

When the day came and classes were over, I went to the cafeteria--wearing red--to see how the decorating was going and make some dumplings. Love dumplings.

I passed our main meeting room - set up with tables to do Chinese calligraphy. Doorways and doors were filled with Scripture blessings in Chinese characters on red crepe paper. The cafeteria was a beehive--decorations being hung, the kitchen in full swing. I joined one table and made some pitiful looking dumplings while the students politely instructed me how to pinch properly.

When the doors opened, the dining room filled--not only many from the Chinese community, but refugees, Italian staff, and a few church friends. Our facility manager gave a short greeting/blessing/prayer in Italian and then the trays of food came out. After a month of Italian, we were all ready for a change of pace and our guests were elated. I sat with one family )with one English-speaker) and enjoyed their astonishment and nods of approval.

In time, we made our way down to the main meeting room, and heard some funny, wonderful videos on the holiday, customs, traditions. Sweets were distributed as we moved to the calligraphy tables. Sheets of blessings from the Psalms were distributed for people to choose from.

I don't know when, in the midst of our very tight schedule, our students were able to accomplish all this, but am I glad they did! I learned a lot, and got to witness their love, hospitality, and generosity for us all. Relationships deepened as our students continued to cultivate the community over three months. During our final festival week, the family below prayed to receive Christ. Wow. Well done, good and faithful servants.

This remains one of my favorite memories of 2018. The students returned to their homelands or participated in short term outreaches. Those in Hong Kong are now gathering with other Incarnate grads from previous years, exhibiting together, visiting with one another, and plotting an arts ministry. One young man, Cheong (featured below), got married, and several of the student attended the wedding. My partners May and Dileep just returned from meeting with them as we discuss possibilities for Incarnate in Asia. Can we find the right venue in HK? I have no doubt--but do pray!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

"The Truth has Buried Satan!"

This is the story of Ruth Kunguma, from Zimbabwe. I enjoyed 3 months in Italy with  this dear sister, watching God perform miracles in her life, learning so much. Here's Part 1 of her Incarnate story:

Ruth was terrified of water and avoided it all costs. Marine spirits lived there, a watery underworld of Satan, and they preyed on the living. These spirits would drag people into the river and if those poor souls ever reappeared--days or years later--they were altered, possessed now by the marine spirits.

I believed Ruth, but had no category for what she was sharing. I did know that God's Spirit ruled over all spirits. So I listened carefully as Ruth explained her culture--listening also to the Holy Spirit for wisdom, insight, and understanding. What was the way in to this situation? 

Ruth listened equally carefully as I explained the authority we have in Christ over spirits. But sometimes talk is easy! Would God's power and our faith be enough to cover my ignorance? Certainly, but I have to admit to feeling nervous! And Ruth had her doubts about this Western white woman, but plenty of faith!

Ruth, from the Shona tribe in Zimbabwe, lives in its capital, Harare, ranked as the world's sixth least liveable city. Her grandfather and uncle were witch doctors. Her father died when she was an infant. In Ruth's culture, when a father dies, the child must not leave the father's house, so Ruth was given to her father's brother to be raised.

Her grandfather had already passed on his witchcraft practices to her uncle. It is probable that a curse was put on her, committing her to Satan. Ruth told us she had visions and dreams of her grandfather telling her he was sorry--he “had to do this”—and of being placed in a cage of some kind. She fell deathly ill at an early age.  Although Ruth survived, she lived with intense fears, including fear of water and the marine spirits. 

The more I learned, the more I felt in over my head. I asked Ruth what Christians do in her country who need to get free from curses and witchcraft. Was there a pastor we could connect her with, who would be better able to help her? It was Ruth's turn to look at me in astonishment--"No! There is no one!" In Ruth’s culture, witchcraft and the Gospel mix. As she explains it, 

"Though some pastors do mix God and consulting wicked spirits, the main challenge I have observed all these years is that even the pastors (majority) themselves need deliverance. Many are still in chains rooted from generational curses and witchcraft. A person's life in Africa is mostly tampered with at birth and not many have strong Christian backgrounds. Most lives have been tampered with. Evil spells and witchcraft in Africa is mainly done when a child is born. This is the devil's strategy in many parts of Africa. Most people struggle because of these curses without knowing why."

"I guess we're it," I thought, and recruited my team for prayer and one partner to join me in leading Ruth through deliverance prayers. I pulled out my trusty, well-worn copy of Neil Anderson's 7-Steps to Freedom, and started praying. A few days later, we began to lead Ruth through prayers, renunciations, confessions, and more prayer, step by step. The Holy Spirit was our Wonderful Counselor. Ruth was a determined warrior.

You can imagine our utter surprise when my partner and I got to the section on idolatry, and read this from Exodus 20:4: “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below." My partner and I looked at each other, dumbfounded. Why had we never noticed this before?! Ruth nodded, smilingly knowingly at these dense white Westerners as they got a lesson on the 10 Commandments!

Bolstered by that gem, we prayed on. Occasionally Ruth would suddenly close her eyes, look to heaven, and say quietly: "This is what I've needed. This is truth."

We weren't quite finished with the last step when Ruth jumped up and began pounding her fist towards the ground, raining imaginary blows on a fallen enemy: "The truth is killing Satan! We are burying him with truth!"

Gleeful is not an adjective you might associate with deliverance ministry, but I do! I've felt it routinely as people learn the truth and are set free from terrible darkness. I thought a Shona dance might be in order, but we were all too much in awe. After a time of prayer, washing with water, and anointing with oil, we closed our time together, but not our hearts. I have not forgotten that day and don't expect I ever will. 

Ruth "tested the waters"--literally--while we were still in Italy. I'll tell you that story next time!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Miss May--Part 2: A New Name

May ended this post with these words: "It’s always amazing to me how much we change during Incarnate; we are different at the end than at the beginning." 

I pulled them up here to the beginning to emphasize how much the staff, the Italians, and guests sometimes experience defining moments, breakthroughs, or simply key insights that help them along their journey. Here's May's second story:

 by May Ratnaike

"As I encouraged the ladies [in May's small group] to practice the different spiritual formation exercises, they asked me to do it with them. One exercise was to fast, pray, and ask God for a new name. Two of the girls in my group received new names from God: ‘Blessing’ and ‘Beloved.’

"One day I was praising God in our room and I heard God say: 'My name for you is Hope.' I was shocked at this still, peaceful voice and wondered, 'Was that real?' I prayed and asked God to confirm that what I heard was from him. I told a friend what had happened, without saying the name—I was waiting for confirmation.

"Three days later, I was sitting talking to someone and he mentioned the word ‘hope,’ and once again I heard the quiet, peaceful voice say, 'He said your name.' I went and told my friend.  She grabbed my hand and said, ‘I have something for you.’  She said she was working on a visual piece, and was not sure why, but decided to keep it. It was a piece of white terrazzo floor tile, tossed in the dumpster, on which she had written the name 'Hope.' A few days later she gave me the piece she created.


"During Incarnate I started seeing visions, something I had experienced only once before. I had a total of about eight, one during a worship time. I heard a multitude of voices singing and praising God, far greater than the thirty people who were in the room."

May and I continue to share our visions and dreams—the ones for future ministry in new arenas and the ones that happen in the night, during worship, or at the kitchen sink. I am deeply blessed by my good friend and dear sister in Christ. Thanks, May, for who you are and for all you do! 

And here's another of May's creations! Pray for May as she forges new ministry. She and her husband Dileep will be opening up OM Arts in Asia, based in Australia, Dileep's home country. Pray as they connect into new churches, fields, and with Artists--Incarnate grads or otherwise!