Friday, August 20, 2010

Dreams and Pine Trees

One of the particularities of missions is the way God uses dreams and visions in both the believer and the unbeliever. Although I had heard of it as a phenomenon in the Middle East and Africa, I was surprised by how common it was in France too; many of the believing French Christians there had come to faith through a dream or vision in which God or an angel appeared to them.

Another phenomenon that is quite common is for arriving missionaries to experience nightmares. It is as if the demonic world mobilizes as soon as a missionary arrives, to destabilize the person. Sometimes the person wakes with the impression that he/she is being choked. It happened again on this outreach.

I had a bad dream the first night I arrived in Italy, but that was as far as it went. But the first night of outreach, two of our artists were disturbed by nightmares, and one had the impression someone was trying to choke her. A third had a bad dream and felt a demonic presence in her room; her baby had nightmares. We prayed as a team to neutralize this weapon the enemy uses to deprive workers of sleep and peace. The disturbances continued briefly, with less potency, as the fear in the artists diminished by exposure of the tactic. They were surprised to learn how common a tactic it is.

On the other hand, God uses dreams and images to capture our attention and guide us through outreach, and that is what I want to concentrate on. As we continued to fight through this in prayer, and the disturbances stopped, the good stuff came!

I had two dreams during the outreach that gave me tremendous encouragement, neither one of which I completely understood, but at least got that God was trying to strengthen and encourage us!

In one dream, there was a huge pine tree, so tall I could see neither bottom nor top. I was ‘hovering’ somewhere in its middle, with another Italian, who was working on a wood sign suspended there from a branch. On the sign was carved “Italia Evangelista.” The Italian was rapturous, expounding on something unintelligible to me, with much hand waving. The dream was over as quickly as it began. But the feeling remained of great joy, and that the Lord was with us. Our strenuous weekend was about to begin: with our move to another location followed by our first exhibit in Teramo.

Was the gospel coming to Teramo that day? Hard to believe in retrospect! Was God with us? Absolutely! Was He pleased with our efforts? I’m sure. “Italia evangelista”—literally, female Italian evangelist—who was that?! Me, or one of the young Italian women I was working with? I don’t know, and don’t need to. And that was that…or so I thought.

Last night, I had another dream, referring me back to Italy, my dream of the pine tree, and a Scripture I read yesterday, as I continue the ‘decanting’ process of all that happened there, and prepare to launch into the next ministry year. In my jet lag, I forgot both the first dream, and the Scripture, but God reminded me through a second dream. The Scripture?

The Lord, speaking to Israel, says: “I am like a green pine tree; your fruitfulness comes from me.” (Hosea 14:8)

Wow! I had a good laugh, and yes, it is hard to see fruit from our work in Teramo, but what a great, funny, unorthodox reminder, through two dreams, that I can rest in what was done. God, who sometimes symbolizes himself as a pine tree, will do the rest (no pun intended!).

And I am thoroughly enjoying the fact that outside my front picture window and door, a pine tree forest is all that I see…

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