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”

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