Ghost and the Afterlife

ghost1

I re-watched the 1990 film ‘Ghost’ with my wife around Valentine’s Day, noticing that it was now available on a popular streaming service I subscribe to.   Warning: I am going to give some spoilers in this post, so watch the film first if you’ve never seen it!

I was reminded of the 80s power-dressing, of shoulderpads, of how boyish Demi Moore looks in the lead female role playing Molly Jenson, and of how computers have moved on.

ghostcomputer

But also I was reminded of what an excellently-paced film it is, with superb writing.  When you start watching it, with three masked figures banging down walls with hammers, and then suited up cracking jokes in elevators, you could be forgiven for wondering what genre of film you are actually watching.  But no particular mood of the scene lasts for long; it switches very quickly (but smoothly) and moves from episode to episode with extraordinary variety and logic for a 2 hour film.  Tiny vignettes such as the ghost who was ‘pushed’ from a subway have searing power in their performance (played by Vincent Shiavelli).  Similarly, in a faux seance setup that has suddenly become real since Sam has activated Oda-Mae’s awareness of the after-life, we see a cameo of a scratchy husband-wife relationship where the wife is determined to find out where the insurance certificate is from her dead husband.  Great detail writing.

Perhaps the best example of the sweetness of the timing is that (spoiler alert!) Sam, the lead played by Patrick Swayze never says to his girlfriend ‘I love you’ – he always says ‘ditto’ in response to her offer.  And he is cruelly snatched away from her even as they are discussing marriage.  However, at the very end of the film, in a ‘ghost-like’ state, suddenly after not being able to see or hear the ghost of her boyfriend, she can hear him again, just before he departs for the hereafter.  And there he says: ‘I love you Molly.  I have always loved you.’  A killer moment.  It stands alongside the ‘penny’ where Molly finally realises Sam is actually there…

ghost2

I think that for many people when they first watched ‘Ghost’, the film did new things to you.  It’s a thriller, a romance, a comedy (Whoopee Goldberg, not to mention Sam’s attempts to move things and Patrick Swayze’s perhaps OTT acting as a frustrated ghost at times), and also a moving treatment of grief and loss.  It also holds that sinister question about what exactly IS waiting for people the other side of death: will you be called upwards in a shaft of light, or will you be dragged away by snickering, horrifying shadowy creatures?  The lines are drawn pretty clearly in the film, and the tone of voice as Sam says: ‘Oh Karl’ at the end shows the sympathy.  Some quite easy life lessons to draw from that, I would say.  Don’t defraud your company of millions of dollars, and don’t get your best friend murdered, or try to get with his girl after you’ve done it.

A slightly less morally easy case to deal with Sam’s role as a ghost in revenge: the ‘actions’ he is able to effect, especially with Willy Lopez, which lead to his death, and yet don’t seem to impact him being called upwards at the end.  And with Karl, where his gruesome end seems more of a mishap than Sam’s intention, who is protecting Molly and Oda May, after all.  And all good moral guides will tell you that it’s the choices we make IN the body that matter, rather than the ones after it.

I’m reminded of the verse in Hebrews 9:27 ‘Man is destined to die once and after that to face judgement.’  I had forgotten a brief scene early on where Sam and Molly watch a plane crash and Sam winces at ‘how quickly’ life can be snatched away.  A powerful foreshadowing for those in the know.

How is it that everyone seems to have forgotten that nowadays?  That we only have one life to live, and that every day is a gift?  They even seem to have forgotten that if it’s a long shot, that God doesn’t exist, that it might be a better idea to believe just in case (otherwise known as Pascal’s Wager – which you can read about in satisfying / confusing detail here).  A cheery nod to the importance of the divine occurs near the end with a large sum of money and some rather nonplussed nuns – was that where the idea for Sister Act came from?

The film leaves you both with the lingering refrain of ‘Unchained Melody’ and the sense of completion and a good goodbye.  With a sense of a pure life, if cut off early, at least with the ends tied up.  It leaves life as a mystery and yet with a convincing sense that there is a force for Good that vies and fights with the evil that threatens to overwhelm everything we do.  Agreed, it’s a long way from there to understanding the importance of the Cross, and what Jesus did for us.  We have to take Sam’s essential goodness on trust, and it is almost a relief to be able to do that, considering the TV drama and characters we are served up with nowadays (think Killing Eve or Breaking Bad – both of course artistically far superior to ‘Ghost’).

‘Ghost’ is a light film and yet it raises disturbing questions and reminds us of what is most important in life.  One observation Rubin, the screenwriter, made after the film played in cinemas, was that men held their wives’ hands differently afterwards.  For more information about the impact of the movie see Why Ghost forever changed summer blockbusters 

It’s worth a re-watch, if you’re looking for something easy but still moving.

 

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Day 19 of 40 days

So this is NOT the 19th post on this – don’t go hunting for the others!  And this is NOT a 40 day fast.  God hasn’t called me to that yet.  Or if he has, my flesh is resisting too much.

I have learnt something about fasting during this time, however.  My last post – Preamble – 40 Days

I laid out what I thought I would be doing with regards to fasting.  But since then I listened to Roger Price’s talk on fasting, and God showed me that while the marathon I completed last year was very helpful for my personal discipline, the same rules don’t apply to fasting.  It’s not about how long you fast for.  It’s about your heart.  That’s rather different for running.  At some points, analogies between running, and our walk with Jesus break down!  My wife keeps telling me this….

So I’ve managed two fasts over three days, slightly different variation each time.  I’d noticed the caffeine headache problem, and come off caffeine quite a lot, which has been really good.  I’ve also realised that I generally snack and eat far too much, and too much of my ‘thought-time’ is preoccupied with anticipating or planning what I’m going to eat.  Sometimes life does literally seem to be moving from one gastronomic pleasure to the next – I hope that I’m not alone in this.  Of course, in some countries and for some people that simply isn’t possible.  How ridiculously blessed but also WRONGLY oriented we are in the West.

Also, I didn’t necessarily (due to time with family, cooking for them etc.) create more time for prayer.  BUT since I’ve done those periods of fasting my prayer life has been quickened a little – I want it quickened more.

The other problem had been the running – as I’m trying to keep in trim for a half-marathon on 9th Feb.  It was both that, and considerations regarding being generally competent enough at work and for the family – driving etc.  So I’ve decided that once the half-marathon is out of the way, I shall do some further periods of longer fasting, but wisely each time.  I will either aim for a 5 day or 7 day fast.  But it’s not about the length.  What I’ve noticed is that once you’re a few days into a fast, the gain is quite substantial in terms of intimacy with God, and power in prayer.  Why JUST get to that point, say three days in, and then break your fast?

What excites me about this personally, is that it’s a new place for me.  I know that fasting is connected with spiritual power.  But spiritual power on the outside looks different on the inside.  On the inside, it’s more brokenness and more yieldedness to God’s will.  But on the outside it reaps more impact in the Kingdom.

As a church, we are having a good time meeting together.  It’s a sacrifice.  But it will become increasingly precious.  We are meeting on Wednesday evenings, and sharing thoughts regarding the verse/s we get each day on our whatsapp group.  I believe that something long-term, some shift in our perspective, in our relationships together, and in our family lives, is going to come from this time.  But we need to keep digging in.  We are JUST on the halfway point really.  I’m looking forward to our Open Meeting on Sunday where we will share communion and come together.  Increasingly, I’m seeing an impact on our Sunday gatherings as we start to become personally renewed.

I would encourage anyone in our church who is reading this, and who perhaps hasn’t been carving out new habits of time with Jesus, that it’s not too late.  Get that green booklet out, get on the whatsapp – perhaps arrange to meet with a friend for an extra time of prayer.  Every day we are called to build with silver and gold in His kingdom.

One thing I always notice about fasting is that urgent, critical prayer requests come my way.  It’s not that they don’t the rest of the time.  It’s that I FEEL the need to pray in my spirit, and find myself connecting with God a lot more often to bring needs before Him.  The other thing I notice is how much more I fall in love with Jesus.  It’s a good place to be, and I’m so glad we committed ourselves as a church to this season of prayer!

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Preamble – 40 days

key is prayer

I thought I’d put a few pointers on here, which would be reminders for me, and perhaps help others too, as in our church we enter an exciting season, at the start of the year, where we focus in on prayer. I’m not promising to blog regularly!

When we are setting aside more time for Jesus, we may feel a bit scared that we won’t know how to fill it.  In reality, we will soon find we need MORE time, to do all the stuff that we suddenly want to do.  Let’s pray that this desire to be with Jesus, to listen to Him, to take a ‘course in Jesus’ as we heard last Sunday about Vision – let’s pray that this spills over and that these two months are only the beginning.

Below I have gathered some thoughts under some headings, which are reflections on me personally and how I am approaching this time.  Don’t feel that you have to do these things – listen to hear what Father is saying for you.

My sister has written a song, which I’ve become more aware of recently, which goes: ‘There are mountains only you can climb, and sunsets just for you’ or something like that.  There ARE some mountains we will climb together as a church.  There are some you may climb as a family, or as a Life Group – or perhaps just with a special friend in the church (or outside).

Why not tell someone else that we are doing a season of prayer?

prayers past generations

FASTING

For me, I have decided to go for three day fasts, building up my capacity for fasting, and then do a ten day fast.  I think that I will still probably be drinking coffee during that time, though I may cut down on caffeine.  Technically, I should be drinking black coffee, as ‘milk’ is food.  I will try on a three day fast to fast the coffee, and see how I get on.  A great tip that someone gave me not that long ago is to drink hot water, rather than cold (to get energy), and also you could go for hot squash.  That still works quite well.

Just to give you the figures, each week I plan to fast Wed to Friday inclusive. I will start from when I wake up, and not break the fast until the Sat morning each week.  After two weeks of three day fasts, I am going to go for a ten day fast, which will start on the Monday, and I will finish on the Wed which is the last Wed of the first month.  I have given myself after that a week’s break, to recover.  I’m mindful that I plan to run a half marathon on the 9th Feb, so I do really need that week just to have some carbs back in my body!  Then I will do one more three day fast, build in another week’s break, and conclude the time of fasting with a five day fast.  I may find, if the first ten day fast went well, that I prefer to do a SECOND ten day fast.

Why are you telling me this, I hear you ask?  Aren’t we supposed to fast in secret?  Well, yes, we are.  But there is also power in corporate fasting.  Others may be planning to fast as well.  We can pray for each other and support each other in prayer – we’re going to need that.  Remember how Aaron and Hur lifted up Moses’ arms in Exodus 17 so that the battle could be won?  Let’s reach out to each other especially in prayer in this time.  If we listen, we will hear God telling us to pray for certain people, to reach out to them and encourage them.

What I’m excited about here is the opportunity for breakthroughs.  Both in the time freed up from thinking about food, in the times together as church, and when I worship or wait on God, I will find myself seeing my life, my family, my relationships, my work, the church – ALL in a different way.  It helps us to be part of the much bigger picture – the Kingdom of God and what he is doing.  I can state what breakthroughs I want – but God will have different plans, I’m sure – and much more wonderful than mine!

Isn’t it about time we started to say no to the devil?  No to our own evil desires, and no to the world?  We know that He only has our best interests at heart.

ten cent prayer

On a practical level, I was re-reading my journal from 2018, and this time last year, I was embarking on marathon training.  I remembered that God had spoken to me, as I was maybe a month off the Brighton marathon (so in March) and said that if I can run 26.2 miles, I can also manage a 40 day-fast.  Well, I’m not going STRAIGHT into that one, just as you don’t go straight into a marathon.  But these are very exciting early steps.

DEVOTIONS – WHAT TO DO

One thing that we used quite a lot with 24/7 prayer rooms is to break up an hour of prayer into 5 minute segments.  You can EASILY think of what to do with each segment.  WARNING – five minutes is actually quite a lot longer than you think to start with.  Five minutes of speaking aloud in tongues is quite a lot.  In five minutes, with a list in front of you, you can pray for quite a lot of people.

So for example (from Dick Eastman, The Hour that Changes the World).  Notice you start and end with praise.  As a practical tip, I found 12 activities too many, and for a long while I focused in on 5 or 6 of them, and just did them, e.g. PRAISE, CONFESSION, SCRIPTURE PRAYING, WATCHING, INTERCESSION, WAITING.  That’s half an hour rather than an hour.  Or just take two of them at a time.

hour changes the world

Make sure that you give good amounts of time to loving God, to singing to Him, to reading Psalms aloud, to declaring who He is.  Thanking Him for all He has done.  Asking forgiveness for our mistakes, for our omissions, for what we have failed to do.  Asking Him to turn a searchlight on our hearts and show us where our motivations are false, prideful, conceited, selfish.  Sometimes you will find that the whole prayer time is taken up with that.  Other times, you can move on into intercession (praying for others).

Because you know that you will have more time for prayer, be on the alert during the day for things to pray for.  Best to pray for them when you hear of them.  And if Father wants you to pray for them more, He will tell you.

Can you get someone else to pray with you, alongside you?  Ring someone up and pray with them over the phone?  Or agree to meet for a short while, and just to pray together?  Share with them how it’s going.  Where you really got passionate and excited?  Where you got a bit down and felt like giving up?  Then you can encourage each other.

roaring like a lion

OTHER STRATEGIES

However much we want to devote our whole lives to God (and sometimes we do!), real life has a habit of getting in the way.  Without being too ambitious, we can recognise that certain things help or hinder us to be our best for Jesus and for others.  Why not let the start of this year be a time where you’re at your best?  For me, I know that when I get out and run I’m better.  So I’m planning to do some short early morning runs each week.  I didn’t even do this when I was marathon training!

Where I’m NOT at my best is often the evenings, especially after a day at work (you know what I mean!).  My wife and I have agreed that once the boys are in bed, we are going to take some time and look at the 40 days booklet verse for that day, and pray together, and see what we hear God saying.  We will do this a day in advance, so we can revisit the verse during the day and keep in sync with everyone else.  I know that sometimes I won’t feel like doing this, but we will be able to help each other, and prompt each other.

WHAT ARE YOU GETTING?

Before I start the 40 days, I got the word ‘abundance’.  We draw water with joy out of the wells of salvation.  There’s more than just the ‘I am saved, I am free’.  There is MORE every day of our lives.  I also saw a key turning in a lock.  I think there’s more to come on that.  Psalm 77:10 says ‘I will remember the days of the right hand of the Most High.’  This is reminding me of revival, and of what God has commanded.  I believe the time is here for that.

I can do all things

 

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Why get ordained?

What are the myths about being ordained?  There is some ignorance and fear about ordination, especially in the Free Church movement – it’s a thing of the past, no one needs to be ordained, it’s not necessary.  It’s a method of control: if you’re ordained somehow your spiritual life is stifled, or you have to compromise with what you really believe to be ordained.  There are many fears and concerned, and those would be associated with particular denominations, e.g. the Anglican communion, or the United Reform.  Some would think you’re coming under something oppressive or even demonic when you ‘agree’ with that denomination.

priests

It’s important to remember Galatians 5:1: ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of bondage.’  I would argue that ordination is not a snare – it is both less and more than is thought by many in the evangelical church.  It is a technicality but it has some spiritual depth: it is

Ordination is not a qualification that somehow immediately makes you more spiritual than anyone else.  The purpose is not for status.  I see it as a response to God’s calling.  It is one of many responses that we can make to God’s calling on our lives.  Just because you are not pursuing ordination, it does not mean that God does not have a calling on your life.  But if you are, it is a response to God’s calling.

Secondly, ordination is not somehow a money-making idea, or a professionalising of faith.  One of the problems I have with those individuals who are saying: Look, you don’t need it, it’s not necessary, is that they’re speaking maybe from a place where they’ve never led a church.  People who’ve never carried the burden for something can easily say: this isn’t needed.  But everything looks different when the buck stops with you – everything looks different when you take responsibility.

I’m doing to draw an analogy as a school teacher.  I’ve watched many people run schools.  I’ve admired, I’ve sometimes been critical in my head, I’ve tried to help, I’ve responded to the way that schools have been run by different head teachers, but I’ve never been a headteacher and I’ve no idea what that experience is like, being responsible for everything that goes on in a school, for carrying the responsibility for that, along with the Chair of Governors – to be carrying that responsibility.

I’d put a word of caution out there for those who say: you don’t NEED to be ordained.  For me, there are two things – it’s a calling, and it’s a response to a calling, and it’s also a structured way of responding and to say that I’m committed to that, and I’m going to be obedient to that:  secondly, being ordained is coming into relationship with a network of Christian leaders, a spiritual network, rather than a status or a position, it’s not a rank.  I’ll write in another post what it means being ordained in Elim, but what it means is a live relationship with this network of Christians.  So what it provides, that certainly our church has not had with some years, is a connection and safety net, if you like – a board of reference.  It isn’t a desire to have everything provided for.  This is one of the myths of ordination, that everything’s provided for you on a plate.  You don’t necessarily get a salary, if you’re ordained; there are some provisions within different denominations for those who are ordained, but they’re not extensive, certainly not at a low level.  For myself, working part-time as a teacher, that’s not what I’m doing it for.  When I was working with some responsibility as a teacher, it was reasonably well-remunerated – but this is not, and this isn’t the purpose of it.  Our previous pastor was faithful and awesome in his role, and yet he wasn’t ordained.  He has said it very well, however, that the times have changed, and that one of the reasons of ordination is the expectation that the community still have towards those who are.

Another thing that ordination is not is ‘Look at me, I deserve brownie points, aren’t I fantastic,’ and there is this myth that those who are ordained are more able or competent than those who aren’t ordained.  Standing from nearly at the point (three years away) from getting ordained, I think it’s very much an ‘open book’. You’re ordained – okay.  It doesn’t necessarily mean much on its own.  I see qualified teachers every day, I see them at work in the classroom, if I had the role of appointing teachers, I wouldn’t employ them JUST because they’re qualified – there are qualified teachers and there are qualified teachers.  Everyone brings a story with them, and it’s connecting into that story that is part of the process.  Ordination is an opportunity to connect into more peoples’ stories, and it’s still the role of each individual on the journey to hear from God, and to be obedient, just like any of us!

bride-groom-outdoor-ceremony

Finally, I would suggest that on that level of technicality, of practicality, there is a distinct set of experiences and knowledge that ordination carries with it.  Yes, some of these things can be done in some denominations by those who aren’t ordained; but for the recognised denominations, it’s also an incredible opportunity to be Jesus to others.  Baptism, infant baptism, marriage, funerals, discipleship of children, being there for the bereaved, the suicidal, the sick, those in prison – it’s a way of responding to the ‘sheep and the goats’ parable that Jesus tells in Matthew 25.   All missionaries will do this sort of work, and most church pastors will too.  And that is very exciting.

Ordination is a strong, a life-long calling to be Jesus’ hands and feet, and to visibly represent the King of kings on earth.  We are all called to do this, yes – but those getting ordained are those stepping up to the plate and saying: We want the Body of Christ to be served, to continue, we want to be faithful, we want to be obedient.  As I say, it’s ONE response to God’s calling on your life.

 

 

 

 

 

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MIT journey

It has been quite a long journey!  M.I.T. is now finally happening – when we affiliated with Elim as a church a couple of years back now, this was all part of the plan.

Yes, I am training to do what I already do.  But it doesn’t feel like that.  Those who are involved in Elim and the process themselves say that it is more about joining in what God is doing, than about a ‘credential’.

The first question I asked myself was ‘How does one get ordained?’  For someone who believes in the priesthood of all believers, this does appear to be a difficult choice.  Yet the down-to-earth reality of church life is that someone needs to be prepared to keep it all going.  Church can be a scarring, painful, traumatic place.  Partly because church attracts the broken and the hurting.  Jesus wasn’t welcome in the smart and the upcoming places – Simon the Pharisee visibly snubbed him and he took him to task for it.

Not only that, but church is now becoming a place that is getting marginalised and persecuted in our culture.  While our church for many years has simply been members of the EA it was important that we had a clearer identity than that.  The beauty of affiliation is that we keep our autonomy and our freedom.  Even if we were a full Elim church – there is no one particular formula for that nowadays.  There is quite a diverse range of churches involved.  What’s quite neat about being members of ECI (Elim Church Incorporated) rather than the Alliance (which makes it sound like something out of Star Wars), is that it’s being reshaped and rethought about by Elim at the moment (go here to find your nearest Elim church).  We keep our own charity number, we can keep our own property; we can support whichever missions we feel is right, and there are a number of ministries who are part of ECI, as well as churches.

My Journey

Now that I have been approved as a Minister in Training (MIT) the process takes approximately three years.  It has been made more rigorous recently, with a ‘portfolio’ of evidence needing to be collated.  It reminds me of earlier days of teacher-training!

There are eight areas of competency, which consist of: Biblical and Theological Understanding, Mission & Evangelism, Leadership & Interaction, Elim: Understanding and Engagement, Personal & Spiritual Development, Ministry & Disipleship, Cultural & Community Awareness and Communication & Organisational Management.  There are quite a lot of resources on the internet, videos, webinars etc. and a quarterly and annual report needs to be filled out each year.  I will attend an MIT conference each June up in Malvern, where the Regents Theological College and the adminstrative hub for Elim is.  Over three days the conference covers very practical aspects required for ordination, which often go hand in hand with the more spiritual aspects too.

I am looking forward to the conferences, and the opportunities to get to know other Elim trainees, as well as other ministers.  Similarly to teaching, I have always enjoyed being able to network.  It often creates ‘spaces’ to think, to reflect.  The best training always has immediate application as well as something to squirrel away for the future.

I have learnt over the years the limitations of training, and I felt in particular as we went up to the MIT selection panel, that we needed to know that we were committed to this.   It’s easy enough to complete a tick box sheet, and to put things down on paper – but it’s allowing that to make a difference in how I serve that will give the whole process more ‘Oooomph’.   We were asked if we had the capacity to undertake the MIT.  God is gracious to us and provides for us, and we are confident that this is the right path.

I will shortly be assigned a supervisor, and also discuss who should be my mentor.  The supervisor’s role is more formal – I need to submit the quarterly and annual reports to them as well as to Stuart Blount, the Elim Director of Ministry.  I need to submit my FIRST quarterly report at the end of December, so it’s something I need to look at pretty soon!

One of the reasons for affiliating to Elim is that there is a path of ordination, or of different areas of further training (Chaplaincy, Missionary training, Evangelism, Youth training, to mention just a few) which are available to us now, and available in relationship, which is the first step towards responding to God’s calling on our lives.  As it says in Jeremiah 20:9 : ‘His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.  I am weary of holding it in, indeed I cannot.’

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Rich in God?

I have been doing a series of studies on Philippians, and wanted to take a quick look at money and why it is not a good idea to think that becoming a Christian makes you rich.  My observation would be that some people have a knack of accumulating wealth – others simply don’t.  Also, there are not that many Christians who are particularly wealthy.  Maybe I don’t know the right people!

If you wanted to understand the dangers behind the prosperity gospel – there are over 2000 scriptures dealing with money, but a lot of them are warnings rather than promises, then read this.  I would make the comment that few preachers would probably identify themselves WITH the prosperity gospel – I think it is more of a problem in developing countries.  I am always suspicious of preachers who talk more about money than about Jesus.

Out of interest I googled ‘get rich quick’ and was pleased to find this helpful post.

Finally (because of course you could spend all day researching a topic like this) I found a post looking at some scriptures on money, and you will find old favourites here . Who knows, perhaps you will find something new too.  Like most topics, it’s a timely reminder that the Bible is the best source of wisdom for daily life. If you wanted to catch up with my studies on Philippians, they’re on our church podcast.

eb61ac7f646ed5ea81d3a4db68108558--funny-quotes-about-life-sayings-about-friends

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Malawi Day 12

We couldn’t believe this was our last day in Malawi! A good devotion led by a DTS student (who had a one-way ticket out to DTS from Holland and was just hearing from God on what to do in November when it finishes), on the stories in 2 Kings and the command for Jehoshaphat to dig ditches, then in 1 Kings on the widow’s oil. We were encouraged to think about obedience and not only when God tells us something easy.

This was followed by a breakout praise session led by ‘da lads’, the African boys, who really know how to move. But we also shifted into the presence, and worshipped as well, before interceding for India. Being on the African continent, it makes many countries seem more accessible, and YWAM have 600 bases around the world. I have finished reading Loren Cunningham’s ‘Is it really you, Lord?’ which is a readable ‘history’ of how Loren followed God’s leading to see thousands of young people paying their way to do mission work.

At the end of the prayer, Colin and I were prayed for as we return to Blighty, and a guy called Tristan who had just arrived from Colombia and was here for a couple of days was also prayed for. There is an efficient method of prayer they use here where everyone prays at once.

We had a quiet morning collecting coffee from Blantyre’s answer to Edgcumbes, chatting to Chris, and I obtained a laptop for our DTS session in the afternoon. I was wanting this to go well as I hadn’t done this sort of thing focusing both on teaching and on being a Christian.

Colin spoke first, and then I did. He focused on his journey into social work, and how there had been some ‘Kaboom’ moments, such as when after lots of pestering by friends at university agreed to go to a Bible study; also later on some unusual careers guidance when after working as an electrical engineer, he heard an audible voice saying ‘Go into social work’.

After giving the group a short break I spoke; I had planned a lot, but felt some of it was too specific perhaps for people who already know they want to teach. So I made the point that we will spend 90,000 hours of our life working, and will encounter some of our greatest challenges in work as Christians. Then I talked about Jesus being a great teacher, and did a bit on how when you reach children or young people, you need to do it wholeheartedly to win them, and to honour God.

After the session, Tom who is the main DTS leader with Sarah his wife, emphasized that it’s not always easy for young Africans to get work, and some come to DTS from being unemployed. Also that not all of them will have completed formal schooling themselves.

With this sort of input we just have to trust that God sowed some seeds! We finished our final day with a braai – Chris got some large beef fillets, and Colin and I got to spend more time with Chris and Hannah’s good friends Daniel and Suzy.

A quick cup of coffee and debrief with Chris, and it was off to pack for an early start. I am now signing off, sitting in Addis Ababa airport at 11:15pm local time, waiting for our final flight home.

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Malawi Day 11

Today we headed out to Majete National Reserve with the Scutt family for a day out. It was already swelteringly hot, although England we understand was even hotter. What’s that all about?!

Before our ‘day proper’ started we had an hour of intercessory worship, and then went to the school to send off a YWAMmer, Sam, who has been teaching Standard 1 (like the American grades, but 6 year olds, entry level) and also doing sport discipleship. Having completed the teacher training that Chris has been running, he is moving to another school to teach full-time, and also getting married before Christmas. We took the opportunity to prayer-walk round the school, a big crowd of DTS and staff team. Although it is still the holidays, there were actually two classes of the oldest year in, brushing up on the basics and preparing for term!

In primary, some students wear uniform and some don’t. Those who can afford to go to secondary all wear uniform (see the film ‘Harnessing the Wind’ for more on this). There has been talk of providing secondary education on the state too, but that seems little more than an electioneering promise.

As we walked up the Base to get in Chris’ car, Daniel gently informed us that a friend of his had been killed by an elephant at Majete – he had been out of his vehicle at the time.

It was a long, scenic drive to Majete, with approximately eight police checks (we are now at Chileka airport waiting for the first leg and fully expecting these in the UK now!). We drove around a mountain at one point with stunning vistas. Around Majete, which is lower and hotter than Blantyre, there was lots of flooding a few months ago, and on the rough track leading up to the Park, we could see white temporary houses, provided by a relief agency, where the flood had wiped out dwellings. Portions of road had also had to be mended.

Once inside the Park, we sat down to a pre-ordered lunch of chicken and rice, enlivened by mango char (not sure how that’s spelled). There was a very inviting pool and we had a swim too – Colin managed to push Caleb in, much to his delight, and then produced a surprising turn of speed ‘for an old man’ as Caleb chased him furiously round the pool!

We took a swing round the Park in the car, and saw impala, warthogs, kudu, crocs gliding down the river with the current and a hippo sunbathing on the rocks.

Chris had booked Colin and myself on what turned out to be a three hour game drive, with a very well-informed guide who told us about plants, birds as well as the big five. The idea was to stop for a sundowner before it went dark, but as Colin said the closest he got to refreshment was a glimpse of the Milky Way. In retrospect, it was a good drive. I should say at this point that before we came out, I mislaid my wallet with cash and bankcard in, and was dependent on Colin’s dollars all day. As we were driving round looking out, this started weighing on me!

But we saw some great birds, the oldest baobab in the Park at 1600 years, and had a narrow escape with a matriarch elephant. We had watched a lone bull elephant for some time

And then we spotted a baby and some others in the brush off the road just by the river. Then we heard a trumpeting, and the driver said: ‘I know this group’, put his foot down and shot off up the sandy path at tremendous speed – we were being chased by the matriarch for some distance. Colin lost two of his fillings. We learnt the group had been transferred from Liwonde National Park, and had experienced poachers there before they put a high fence round. So they always chased off any vehicles, especially when baby elephants were around.

Briefly, other highlights of the day included two buffaloes, in the dark, a nightjar, hippos in the river, and looking at the Scorpio and the Southern Cross in the pitch black. For Colin, what sprang to his mind, after the bumpy safari truck and the jolty drive back (Chris’ driving stamina has to be noted here) was chips and ginger beer picked up from Kips, Blantyre’s answer to a Dinky Doo Diner. I leave you with the baobab tree!

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Malawi Days 9 and 10

It is now Friday, before we leave, and I am racking my brains to remember what we did on Tuesday and Wednesday! Fortunately I have Colin to remind me sitting at the table here! I also have the luxury of Hannah’s laptop to write my post, which may be a bad thing as I write more. Let’s hope not….

I have organised this post for two days, as Thursday I will cover in a separate post, on safari – a non-mission day really! Tuesday morning I led the devotion, focusing on Luke 7 and the woman who broke the alabaster jar. I was interested to discover (perhaps I should have known this already) that this incident of a woman pouring perfume on Jesus’ feet occurs in all four Gospels. I encouraged everyone to spend some time in silence, thanking God, confessing, praising Him and then allowing him to speak through the passage. We then had thirty minutes off on our own, during which the idea is we have our own quiet time, and return at 8:30am for worship and intercession. Several times, Colin and I during the thirty minutes have gone to the bench by the gate of the Base, and prayed together, which I have really appreciated.

During the intercession, which was for YWAM (on Mon the focus is prophetic, on Wed Malawi, on Thurs there is extended worship and on Friday the focus is international) Colin and I were rushed off with Hannah as the plan was to get us to Thyolo House, while she dropped the children off at a friend’s and took another friend to see his baby in hospital – Hannah has spent a lot of time supporting her friend with the pregnancy, and had been kept in due to high blood pressure. Judging by the look on the husband’s (and now father’s) face as we picked him up from their house, this was very much a story with a happy ending, especially as this is their first child.

So Colin and I spent a very pleasant morning at Thyolo House, chewing the fat, sampling orange cake and sipping coffee. This gave us an impression of what it might be like as a tourist in Blantyre – however, at 110 dollars a night, it is not the cheapest option. The Italian owner allowed us to have a tour of the house, which was stunningly decorated in ornate colonial style. On a clear day (and this is becoming the thing to say in the heat haze of summer) you can see the Mulanje range.

We then returned to Base ready for some mission in the afternoon – this transpired to be a trip to the local market, and we went in threes into the village and engaged people in conversation about Jesus. Just like going round the different YWAM bases, this is an excellent opportunity to see what is going on. The market itself is really vibrant mid-afternoon, with lots of people milling around, and lively music playing. Sometimes the Base brings out their red truck and do some outreach, but this afternoon this was being used elsewhere.

On Wednesday morning we had a quieter devotion time than usual (Daniel and Chris were away on a one-on-one prayer time in Zomba), and we interceded for the needy in Malawi in particular. The students on Discipleship Training School get experience in this context in leading meetings – so they were steering how we prayed. With forty people together, it’s a case of using the time well, and also helping everyone to engage. I have really enjoyed the times of prayer we have and feel perhaps that it’s time for a shake-up with our church prayer meeting back home. (Having some Chichewan praise would also be quite good!)

We got to sit in on Lindane’s teaching for the DTS this morning, which was a real treat. He spent the first session before coffee prophesying over each of the students, and it was brilliant to see someone with a real established prophetic gift, bringing careful, biblical, helpful words to the students. It’s also always a good opportunity, when ministering to people you don’t know very well, to be exercising that sort of gift. He is the Base leader for a base in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and they are currently looking to purchase a farm, as their neighbours don’t want them where they are. He travels quite a lot to different Bases, giving teaching. He was teaching on the Holy Spirit this morning, and gave many helpful and wise comments both about prayer and also the power of the Holy Spirit. One story involved a girl who always seemed to say the wrong thing, and Lindane ended up going with her on a door-to-door evangelism session. To Lin’s surprise, she gave an amazing prophetic word to one woman out in her garden, which meant she returned to church and was healed from hurt in the past, where she had been told to marry a certain person, and she had obeyed – and then he had been unfaithful and left her. This word meant that her faith was restored and she returned to church! One of the sensible things Lin said was that we should never feel coerced in our faith – we always have a choice.

I had been for a run early that morning, and this meant that I was quite tired – Colin also wasn’t feeling great, so we had a quiet afternoon, and managed for the evening to get to the Community Evening, where Lin shared on the power of the Holy Spirit and then everyone got prayed for. Good times!

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Malawi Day 8

It’s the pattern of the Blantyre base to have a two-hour time of devotion, praise and worship and intercession, with a different focus every day. We also learnt that the YWAM approach is dancing, praise in his presence through into worship and encounter with God. Malawians just go from one song to another, with a strong singer starting up the next song and some great drum rhythms.

The devotion slot this morning was led by Daniel, one of the Base leaders, on Genesis 32. Lots came out of it, including not to trust a leader who hasn’t got a limp, like Jacob. It’s incredible to think that a nation was named (Israel) out of a night wrestling with God.This afternoon Hannah and Chris chaperoned us at a market stall, where they helped to bargain us down as we both bought gifts. Looking back, I spent twenty dollars and I’m not quite sure what I got for it! We then relaxed at a cafe, and Colin unwisely opted for a healthy juice, ‘botanic boost’, which I had to help him finish. It cost 3,800 Kwacha, which translates to approximately £3.80.

Next we got to finally see the school that Chris and the Blantyre team have been so instrumental in building. The classes are out for summer, but the results came out top in their educational zone.Chris gave us a superb tour with lots of information. The school has been really well received partly because one of the team is very highly respected in the village. They have not had any security issues at the school (unlike on the former YWAM base) partly because the builders all came from the village.The school is so smart and spacious, built on a hill but they levelled off some ground for a playground space.

Although Colin and I had both seen photos while it was being built, we were impressed with the scale of it. Children start at age 6 and this caters for primary. Up to there is government-funded, so while the funding for the building of school and teacher houses was external, the teacher salaries are paid by the government. Teachers are not paid very much.We were excited to learn yesterday (Tues now!) from Chris that the Phalombe football team may actually come and sleep in the classrooms at the school, and can then get lots of input from Blantyre Base staff.

One of the ongoing projects Chris is involved in is to train teachers in both Christian education and good teaching skills. He is using a University of the Nation’s (YWAM) designed course, and has created an app to support assessment of the teachers. He is training ‘trainers’ to go out and disseminate this, which may extend beyond Malawi.There is also talk of building a secondary school in the area too, which may happen. Chris met a government official last week to see if Mary’s Meals can get started at the Thantwe School – he showed us rooms with spaces to cook large pots of porridge for the students first thing in the morning. The parents will volunteer to cook, rising at 4:30am to do so.  As we left the school, the deputy head said they don’t have any discipline problems. Why would they when they are given such a fabulous opportunity?

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