Three weeks ago, in the midst of our fuel crisis where we had no fuel in the country for a month, I told the Lord that if I had to walk to deliver the gospel then I would. Just a few days after that prayer we had fuel again in our country. I then heard a word from the Lord to, “Go back to the basics”. When did we make the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ so complicated? We have set so many rules and programs and doctrines into place concerning this simple gospel of mercy, that many have found it too difficult to attain and so they refrain.
As I reflected on the differences between today and almost 2,000 years ago, all I could see was Jesus walking. Jesus walking. Jesus walking and talking and going to the masses, verses the masses coming to His program. I look at all the preparation we make to load up the Jesus film and all that equipment, loading up dishes and cooking stuff and tents and tarps and fueling vehicles, sometimes hiring vehicles….. I really wanted to get back to the basics. You know what I realized? How many, how very many people get passed by when we drive by. These are the people who would never attend a Christian gathering. These are the people who “have heard it all before”. They haven’t had a personal encounter with the lover of their souls.
So we headed out early Friday morning, just carrying our backpacks, nine Iris Global missionaries (four of our kids), our pastor and three of his church leaders and we walked. We only walked seven miles out of town but it took us almost five hours! We stopped at a roadside motorcycle repair place where five guys were working on a motorcycle. We greeted them warmly and asked if we could pray for them. Were they sick or suffering financial crisis….. They gathered chairs for us to sit in as is the custom here but we asked them to sit and one by one, taking our time, listening to Holy Spirit, we prayed for them. One man was sick, suffering from malaria and typhoid. People here are amazingly resilient and can actually function with these sicknesses! Another had been robbed of all his life savings. They were so thankful that we had stopped for them and so uplifted. You could see the change in their countenance. Yesterday when we were walking back home, we encountered the sick man and he came up to us and said that he was completely well, no sickness! He was beaming and praising Jesus!
At this place by the roadside a young girl was watching and listening and asked us to come and pray for her sister who had a lame leg. We went off the roadside onto a beaten path and went a bit into the bush. We came to a compound with many family members and the mother was taken aback that all these people would appear on her compound. We prayed for all of them and encouraged them. The girl was not visibly healed but the family was so blessed by our coming and leaving the main road to come and minister to them.
At one point we stopped to rest under a bamboo tree when a motorcycle with three soldiers, two of them armed with AK47s, one of them a Commander/General as he has two gold stars, pulled right up to us and demanded to know what we were doing, all these foreigners walking around with backpacks. Don’t we realize that rebels are around?! Maybe we are there to supply the rebels?!! We don’t trust the whites anymore because they want to arm the rebels….. Seriously, this is what they were saying. Further north, they said, white people were getting shot on sight by rebels because they don’t trust them, thinking that they are supplying food and arms to their enemies. There was an incident last year where an unnamed NGO container was intercepted and was supposedly carrying weapons. So this has brought a huge breach in trust now.
I told them to call Chaplain Daniel at the SPLA, he is our friend, as are all the soldiers. He actually did it. That never happens. Daniel immediately told them that we are friends of the SPLA and we come to preach at their church and minister to their soldiers and to let us have full access to the roads and to go where we want to go unimpeded. The soldiers then smiled and were friendly and said we could go where we wanted to. They will now also keep an eye on us for our safety. Favor with authorities…… God set that up last year for us because we were obedient to go when he asked us to go and minister to the SPLA.
We stopped at another place and preached the gospel under a mango tree, the gospel of salvation. We never counted how many were saved these last two days because everywhere we stopped people were receiving the salvation of Jesus Christ. I tell you, when you take your time, when you really listen to the people’s hearts, Jesus comes in and softens them to receive Him. We moved on and prayed for people along the side of the road, one by one. We arrived at a small village and stayed with a local family who were the caretakers of a small church. The pastor of this church was with us on our team and he had arranged for us to stay with this family on their compound. We set our packs down and broke into teams and headed out to visit the village, hut to hut. We didn’t eat lunch or have a coke or set up our tents, we just went.
The first house we went to we were met by women and children. As we were praying with them and talking to them about salvation, the man of the house arrived. He wasn’t too happy. We learned that he was the pastor of a local denominational church and he accused us of coming to their village without permission from the headman/chief and that we did not let the local churches know that we were coming. Unbeknownst to me, our pastor Idi did in fact give notice the week before and did get permission. We politely informed the man that we had in fact done this and that we were so sorry that he was not informed properly. He allowed us to continue, although we were almost finished by this time. We prayed a prayer of blessing over him and his house. He was peaceful and even smiling when we left. We were told later by our pastor that there was a hard spirit of religion in this area and none of the churches acknowledged each other or worked together on anything, even to the point of telling their congregants not to attend any functions of other churches. It is very sad indeed.
If I could say that there was one encounter that touched me the most it was this next one. We came to a house where a lady had been sick in bed for four years. She was so rail thin that I really don’t think she had any muscle mass left. Her face was a skeleton with skin on it. She hadn’t eaten or drank anything in two weeks and was no longer aware of her surroundings. Her husband works in Juba, which is 100 miles away. He just so happened to have arrived that very morning as the brother of this woman summoned him to come and do something about the situation. The husband was very fat and healthy and he was very aloof. After we prayed for this lady we all gathered in a circle outside and we began to share the gospel. We then asked if all had been saved and were informed that this husband was not. During the entire time of sharing he was aloof and didn’t want to be there. I told the family that I felt it was the sick woman’s time to go on to glory and that this was okay. I was shocked as I said this because I NEVER say this, always believing that it is God’s will for people to be healed that aren’t old and haven’t yet lived a long life. I told this man that I believed we were there for him and not his wife.
He said that if God touches his heart then he will be saved but as of yet God had not touched his heart. That was very evident. I told him that I was a soldier and that I know what his life is like, as he was a soldier also. He immediately started to respond to me. I asked him if I could pray for God to touch his heart. He seemed a bit resistant and I assured him that he wouldn’t be forced to do anything or to even respond. All I wanted to do was ask that God do what He wanted to do in this man’s heart. He agreed. I started to pray for him and I started to speak his destiny out constantly using his name, Esbon. I told him that God needed brigadier generals in His army and Esbon was in line for that position should he answer the call. I prayed on and spoke a rich word of destiny over him. When we were finished praying, Esbon’s face and countenance were lit up, completely changed, and he was bright eyed and smiling. I knew that he hadn’t cared for his sick wife, even neglecting her, and I knew that he didn’t love God, yet I felt such a deep love for this man and I told him so. He was “touched”, you could SEE it all over him.
We didn’t revisit the subject of salvation with him but one of our kids told Esbon about the parable of the two sons who were told by their father to go and work in the field. One said no but he went anyway. The other said yes but never went. Lawrence asked the man, which one did God honor? Even Esbon knew it was the son who said no but went in the end. This is what we left Esbon with. That evening we learned that within the very hour that we had left Esbon, his wife went on to glory. I can’t wait to get to glory and hear what happened in Esbon’s heart after this “encounter” with God this day. I know he said yes or will in these coming days. He had much to ponder.
Another house we visited was full of the religious spirit and they were not very receptive to our being there nor to the gospel of salvation. One of our boys preached an amazing word and no one came forth. We blessed this house and the people there and moved on. As the team was moving down the road a young man literally ran after them and said he wanted salvation! When we told him to lift up his hands in surrender he snapped up his arms and bowed his head in almost desperation to receive the salvation of the Lord. He ran after his salvation, praise Jesus!
The last house we went to, there were four giant grave monuments in the middle of the compound. I preached about the wedding feast of King Jesus to the people as they sat on these graves. One man who had been drinking was so convicted that he stood up and said, I am a sinner and I am sorry and I want forgiveness and I want to stop drinking. The next day we were in that little church, about the size of a dining room, teaching the new converts and discipling them and this same man came, completely sober, on a Saturday, in a suit, hungry for the living word of God. He was a new man, born again and set free. All of our children are biting at the bit to go now. They are begging to let them go next time. They want to carry this glorious gospel to their own people. THIS is what I love to do. ALL of THIS, living and carrying the gospel of peace and restoration to all men.