The dark night

The dark places are my favorite places.
The light shines brightest there.  In the darkness and in the hopelessness.

A few weeks ago, I experienced what may have been one of my favorite times of ministry ever.  We were in one of the darkest places in our city – at the local government hospital.  Health care in this facility is overcrowded and underfunded.  Old and broken-down facilities.  People line the hallways in beds.  The unconditioned air is heavy with the smell of sickness and the atmosphere dripping with fear.

It was night and we were on a mission.  A group of young people gathered outside the hospital.  In a circle, we began to worship.  His presence was so real in that place of darkness.  As the sound wafted through the night air and into the windows of the hospital, groups broke away to go to minister to people.  They carried with them thermoses of hot milo and siopao (steamed pork bun) to give away.  In this hospital, every patient must have someone with them 24/7.  Called ‘watchers” they tend to the care of the patient. They too are in the overcrowded wards with a small plastic chair for the night if they are lucky.  We wanted to minister to them as well as the sick.

The worship continued and atmosphere was changing.  People began coming towards the sound of worship.  Like moths drawn to the light.  I looked around and saw little clumps of our youth ministering with people in different ways.  Some approaching people with food.  Some praying.  Some just talking.  Some worshipping.

Back under a tree in the shadows stood a man.  He was staring as our young people worshipped.  Carrying a hot bowl of champorado (chocolate rice porridge) I smiled and asked him how his day was.  Immediately, he replied. “It’s not a good day”.  Looking perplexed he nevertheless took the champorado from my hands.  “My son has cancer.  It’s been three weeks we have been here now.  I heard the music and I came to see what it was.”  He was in despair.  His son only 18 years old and with little money for his treatment.  We prayed with Him, encouraging Him with the faithfulness of God.  His eyes filled with tears he said “Will you be here tomorrow night?”  Oh my goodness, I wish.  There is so much opportunity and such wide open doors.  The harvest is so ripe.  Jesus send labourers!

So many people were touched with His love that night.  Many of our youth entered the hospital and prayed for patients.  I managed to get past a guard also.  Someone from our team had already given him a steaming bowl of champorado so maybe that helped!  After being inside one of the wards and walking back outside, I was struck with an overwhelming joy that we get to bring His hope. The worship was playing.  Our young people were shining in the darkness.  Jesus was being glorified in that place!  And we are going back!

It’s not complicated

A thin and exhausted woman stood in front of me.  She glanced at her children, unkept, dirty, high on glue and looked back at me.  Her kids were refusing to come home because of the environment there but they were also on a highway to self-destruction sleeping on the streets.  Despite their “colourful” character, they had already stolen a piece of our hearts.  We had been taking food and love to the kids in the local park.  These kids were notorious at that time and we had been pouring all we could into their broken little empty hearts.  Street-wise, with all the tricks of the trade, they set us on a fast track course in loving unconditionally.  It’s easy to say those words however when your love is tested at every turn, it’s another ball game.  Well, I guess not another one.  But the real one.

When God gave us the name “His Heart Ministries”, it came with a huge responsibility.  I feel it constantly.  We cannot carry that name unless we do everything we can to truly be the heart of God.  That takes a constant refining and re-firing.  Some of the disappointments that arise can cause us to become cynical or natural in our thinking. However, the heart of God hurtles towards brokenness and rejection with love and redemption.

“Please come and teach my children about Jesus” she pleaded.

We walked the narrow path to her house, winding through small homes, propped on hillsides made with various pieces of iron patched together anyway possible.  Yasmin and I had no idea what we would find.  With no local language and no interpreter we were well out of our depth.  Stepping up into a little corrugated iron house, we found there was no room for our feet.  The floor covered with children expectantly waiting.  Word had got out that we were coming!

We worshipped.  No one else sang.  How could they?  They didn’t know the words.  Most of the words didn’t mean a whole lot to them anyway.  So we closed our eyes and set our hearts on Jesus.  His presence flowed in that tiny broken house and His love began pouring over hearts.  Parents stood outside peering through the windows.  Hungry for something real – God was wooing them to Himself with love.

prayer mel

We told of God’s love but we had no local language, except a few phrases we had learnt out of necessity with the street kids. Words like “No, Wait, Later, Let me see, What is your name and I love you”.  These words although good didn’t go far in communicating about God.  Some of the kids tried their best to translate.  Talk about in over our heads.

No option but to SHOW His love.  Explanations wouldn’t cut it.  We had to BE Him.  Unconditional love was tested over and over.  We had to show that His love never stops and neither would ours.  Although in the natural so much was missing in this picture His love and presence got under the radar and their hearts began to melt.  Pastors had been coming and going from this area for years.  Burnt out and discouraged they would leave.  But the simple, true message of the gospel was being preached – mostly without words.  The love of God – so radical and so great it is irresistible.

It’s not complicated.  Let’s love.

“Preach the gospel, and if necessary use words”

A House Church is not…

Ok, so I need to get this off my chest.

A house church is not a “small group”.  It is not a “bible study”.  It’s not something additional to a traditional church model service you may attend.  It is a church, a body of believers – Ekklesia – “called out ones”.

I’ve had some interesting conversations with people who have no grid for this.  When I tell them about what God is doing here in the Philippines sometimes I can see them shut down.  They hear the word house church and somehow to them it’s not legitimate.

As Christians, we should know God doesn’t live in temples made by human hands and yet oddly enough we see the building as being some sort of qualifier as to whether there is a church or not.  God’s church are His people.

Romans 16:5 says “greet the church that is in their house”.   Oh! I guess it was a church – in a house!

We are His church.  We, at His Heart are a living community of believers.  We actively shine, love and be Jesus all day every day.  We meet in houses in communities.  We visit one another and care for one another.  When a member is sick, another member will visit and pray.  When someone needs food, the church in that community comes together to provide food.  We often gather in tiny homes no bigger than what would be a small bedroom in the West. Everyone crowds in. Kids, mothers with babies, fathers, grandparents, teenagers, dogs, cats, and sometimes even a mouse scampering around the edges.

The roof can be made of leaky corrugated iron and perhaps the floor is made of dirt but nothing can stop God showing up as hungry hearts unite. Worship begins and His presence falls like rain.  Tears flow.  Children raise their hands to worship. Hearts and bodies are healed.  People grow as they read the scripture together and encourage each other to apply it to their life.  We share communion and people are baptized in water as they choose to follow Him.

When we get too big to fit in a house or too big for people to truly flourish and be cared for, we simply multiply in two.  Half meet in one house and the other half in a different house.  We don’t have to wait to raise money to extend our building so we can handle growth.  All we need is a place where the believers can encourage each other.  Even a shady tree is enough.

Simple church.

Childlike Trust

IMG_0218Not long ago we drove 3.5 hours to find people on the heart of God.  We didn’t know anyone but we came across Sandy*.  Her eyes held a depth of hopelessness and disbelief like I didn’t know existed.  I have seen my share of hopelessness here but this took my breath away.  Living in poverty in a flood zone with her husband and six children, her life had been one of misery. She was born to a blind father and a crippled mother, and because of this had only known financial hardship and ridicule.

No hope for the future.  All of it smashed as everywhere she looked were problems and insurmountable challenges.  What could we do?  God has good things for her.  How can we lift her out of her despair?  Holy Spirit how do we partner with you here?  We took her shopping!  Piling up groceries, she stood crying holding on to her cart in the supermarket.  We told her of God’s love and that He cares.

A few days later, we sat with her outside her home as she ran into the arms of her loving Papa.  She ran into hope.  She ran into her great future in Him.  There was no immediate natural change to her circumstances at this point but her face shone!  Jesus broke through the darkness with His hope and light.

There was a song we had on a Bill Gaither record, back in the day.  It was one of my favorites and I would sing it over and over.

I’m just a child!  My life is still before me
I just can’t wait, to see what God has for me,
But I know that I will trust Him
And I’ll wait to see what life will bring for me.

When I thought about the words, often a feeling of absolute exhilaration would rush over me.  Now I know and recognize that it was the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes I felt like I would burst!  I clearly remember, driving along in our car with Mum during one of these encounter moments.  I shuffled forward to the edge of the back seat so I could lean through the gap in between the front seats to get Mum’s attention.  “Mum, I’m just so excited to see what God has for me!”.  “Oh, that’s good” she replied, as she drove and juggled probably a hundred of other things in her mind as a mother of four kids would be.  By her reaction, I knew she didn’t really understand quite what was going on for me at that moment.  I sat back in my seat but I kept on singing.

Childlike trust and wonder.  You know, I’m now in my late forties, but sometimes I still sing that song.  I still have great expectations for the future and am excited to see what God will do through my life.  I want to remain in that childlike position of perfect trust whether I’m in a dark season or not.

I pray that your heart will be filled with His hope.  I pray that you will be exhilarated by His goodness and promises and that He will bring you into a place of perfect trust and peace.
Let’s grow down.  Childlike trust.  He has good plans.

Journeying with you,
With love,
Angela

*Sandy is not her real name

Brown eyes

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I was in my Sunday best, a beautiful dress made by my mother, cream stockings and red shiny shoes.

A teacher sat on a chair at the front of our little church with big coloured pictures.  She was telling us the story of a little girl who had brown eyes.  Her little brother had blue eyes and she would often pray that God would turn her eyes blue too, but it never happened.  I was fixated because I had what I thought were boring brown eyes and my sister had beautiful blue eyes.  I’d never thought of praying that God would change them! Maybe I should?

But the teacher went on to tell us the rest of the story.  Amy Carmichael, with the brown eyes, eventually ended up as a missionary in India.  She would dress in Indian clothes and dye her skin with dark coffee, travelling long distances in India’s heat and dust to save children from suffering.  I was enraptured!  Her brown eyes made her more accepted and effective.  The truth that God made me as I am for a purpose went deep in my heart.  As a child, I began to understand, God’s design and plan can be trusted.

I decided I’d stick with my brown eyes and I never forgot the story of Amy Carmichael.

All that He has made me to be, whether brown eyed or my other personality traits, it is all part of His design.  There were things about my personality that I wanted to change before I came to the Philippines.  It wasn’t until I got here, that I understood.  Some of the things that I didn’t like about myself actually are an asset in this culture.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

He’s way smarter than we think!

Rest and trust.  He has a perfect plan.

Journeying with you,

Angela xo

Photo Credit:  Yasmin Hughes

 

 

Here we go…

from the rockI guess this is it.  Some form of accountability to you, my readers, to follow what God has been speaking to me about.  This is not natural in any sense.  For those who know me well, you will know that I have to force myself to write newsletters every few months.  God has a sense of humor.  But to me, it’s not so funny.  Actually, I cried when He first told me to write.  That was a good few years ago too!

But delayed obedience is not true obedience and I’m confessing that I have been disobedient.  To say “yes” when He told me to go to Africa, or to uproot my 13 year old and settle in the Philippines without having ever been there before, no problem!  But to write?  Big problem.  So many excuses.  My primary one, is that I don’t have time.  My days and nights are full here in the Philippines.  But if God says do it, we should do it.  And so today begins my obedience.

Once something is written, you can’t take it back.  It’s out there for everyone to see.  This is kind of scary to me. A blog is a snap shot of here and now.  A raw take on life.  In the early stages, there are will not be larger picture showing the journey and the growth.  My issue is that I know I am learning and growing all the time.  Thank goodness!  Things I said, ten years ago, I may not say now.  So I invite you to take my writing as such, written by someone who is learning constantly and come on a journey with me into this fluid, moving thing called life in Jesus.

I pray God takes my simple thoughts on living a life of love, of missions, and of church planting and uses them to inspire and help others.

But I also get the sense, that this is more about me living surrendered to beautiful Jesus.  He is transforming and changing us all and I hope we can walk this road together. Thanks for joining me.  Here we go….

See you in a few days.  xo

Photo Credit: Rachel Soh