High on a hill (stood a lonely goat-herd? Nah…!) – actually, it’s a mountain in the Andes, stands the huge statue of Cristo Rey: Christ the King. He overlooks this wonderful city of Cali, arms spread wide (very similar to Christ the Redeemer, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), facing directly two of the worst areas of the central city area – Siloe (pronounced Sil – o -ay), and the Calvario (pronounced Cal-bario) – which means Calvary….
I’m always breath-taken by the statue, especially being here in this city, and though it’s only made of stone, it brings hope to a city that, until the last 10 years, has been so terribly broken and damaged by violence, drugs, and poverty. I remember quite a few years ago now, hearing tremendous American preacher Bill Johnson preach on ‘When heaven invades earth’, which became the first of his books to be written. That message’s impact on me was profound, and the total belief that we can see – as we’ve all prayed for countless generations – ‘your Kingdom come, your will be done, ON EARTH as it is in heaven’. Jesus’ prayer is, of course, well-known to a vast percentage of the world’s population: and for those of us in the Christian ‘camp’ – whatever label we wear – we believe it.
But how much do we believe it? It’s back to Paul’s profound comment to Timothy – I know what I have believed, and AM PERSUADED that He (God) is able…. But if we’re brutally honest with ourselves, whilst we believe it, do we REALLY believe it….convinced/persuaded by it. I was so blessed today to receive this message to my blog inbox, from long-time friend Jennifer Acklam:
“If the disciples had had blogs in the early church, I think this is how they would have read! Amazing, Praise God!” Jennifer Acklam, Church of Scotland Pastor’s wife ”
Cali, for me, and for many of the people I’ve brought here over the last 17 years, inspires faith, and Jesus on the mountain inspires the belief in me that this city is under an open heaven now, after it’s years of horror. Today, I thought Brian & I had the day off. We’d been invited for lunch at the best steak house on the continent (Leños and Carbon) by the totally lovely Pastor Wilmar Gomez. Wilmar and his adorable wife Marlene, great, great friends for all the years I’ve been coming here, have for most of the pastoral lives, had only income from God, supplied by their faith. So to be bought lunch by Wilmar was far, far more than a double blessing: it was sacrificial on the part of the Gomez family. Then, we were due to meet the almost equally as lovely Pastor William Castaño: I put a quote on Facebook earlier, about humility. These two men epitomise totally the humility of Jesus, it is reflected by their words, deeds, and in the faces.
William wanted to show us his ministry office: he is an extremely highly qualified Church Leader, a Doctor of Theology, a senior professor at the Baptist Bible University, so highly regarded and respected, and yet he delights in organising my agenda here… and counts it a privilege to chauffeur me and my friends whenever he can. If only he knew that the privilege was the other way round: just to be with him draws you into the presence of God. His ministry, offering pastors extremely high quality teaching, is provided at very little cost, and is called ‘Ensenañza’ – simply, ‘Teaching’. It is a faith ministry, as the ‘fees’ bear no reflection to the cost of running the ministry, and I fe;t today that I want to do all I can to help him.
And then, this is where the blog title came from: William’s dad has been chronically sick with compressed vertebra at the top of his spine. The spine had been so badly damaged by them that the nerves inside it had been trapped, and caused loss of use of hands and fingers, and his legs to feel incredibly ‘heavy’. He’s not been able to move for 2 months. No feeling in his hands and fingers. Intense pain in his neck and shoulders. And it was just getting worse, to the point where the specialist doctors had said that the compression was going to get worse, was unstoppable, and that, very soon, he’d be paralysed, and in intense pain. Heart trouble, too….86 years old. Not a pleasant prognosis. Joel had himself been a pastor, for 48 years.
William’s dad (Joel (pronounced Ho-el), and Irene (I-renni) are just lovely. I talked to dad, with Wilmar’s help more often than not(! – the Spanish was fast and possibly more colloquial that I’ve learned yet!), and then prayed for him. I held his hands as I prayed: and instantly he began to move them, the pain went in his neck, and the vertebra effectively ‘freed’ themselves. He grabbed my hands and hand them so tight, then waved his arms in the air, then got up and walked. He hadn’t walked for some months. All his pain had gone, strength was returning, and mobility was back instantly. Irene, Joel, Wilmar, Brian, and me – were all in tears….tears of joy, amazement at the wonderful grace, mercy, and power of God, and the Living Lord Jesus…..Irene had terrible blood circulation problems, causing her arms and hands to be virtually useless, and in extreme pain, and her face had terrible pain in both cheeks, and her jaw. God healed her instantly, too…..
We had amazing, strong, powerful hugs from Joel, laughter, tears, and thankfulness for what God did for him and Irene. On the way ‘home’, we stopped at the home of Lucy, one of William’s staff, and a professor at his school. Her mum, Elizabeth, hadn’t walked for two weeks with a seized back, was bed-ridden, couldn’t even move in bed, and if she did, she screamed. She had the worst varicose veins in her legs I’ve seen, and immense pain in her back…she hadn’t left the house for 4 months, except to be taken to hospitals. Chronic blood circulation problems, too, and dangerously low blood pressure, which was partly the fault for her inability to walk. Well, within moment of praying for her, I asked how her back pain was…. it had gone. Can you sit up, Elizabeth? She did…. Lucy was in tears: hadn’t done that without screaming for many weeks. Can you walk? She did: first time, without pain and screaming, in weeks. So that had to mean the low blood pressure had righted itself, and her circulation was back, up and running… ALL her pain went, and later this week, goes to the hospital to have the dressings changed – removed??! – from her varicose veins, in both legs. When I prayed for her, I prayed that God’s joy would fill her, and, of course joy IS strength if we are to believe the promises of God. Joy came back into face: it was transformed. Lucy told us that many, many months ago, she had lost – and given up on – her joy. Words of knowledge, even simple ones like that, are wonderful, eh?
Lucy: would we pray for her high blood pressure please? Of course. And my terrible lower lumbar region pain? Yes… Brian went after that one. It went. As I prayed for her, I just knew I had to pray for her spine, so commanded it to be straight from the base of her skull to the coccyx. As soon as the prayer stopped, she told everyone that, as I’d prayed, she felt her spine moving in various directions as it straightened: it was only then that she told us she’d HAD – no longer, now – scoliosis. Another ‘unwitting’ word of knowledge, but no less effective!
We then got to pray for Lucy’s younger brother, Edgar: known to William, of course, as his sister works for him. A former serious addict, God just blessed his boots off as I prayed for him, which turned into a prophecy, and the heaviness in his face and persona completely changed…. What a marvellous 3 hours, indeed.
Day off? Who needs them? Well, I do, sometimes, and as far as I know, we’ve got tomorrow morning off! But you never quite know in this city…. a lay in might happen though 🙂
Brian blew me away earlier in the day, when he posted on his Facebook page, and onto mine, a quote from John Paul Jackson, the wonderful prophet/teacher/ preacher/ dream interpreter from the USA. It had me in tears, as I don’t deserve it, so I’ll just leave it with you, as I’m just humbled by it…. A great leader will make more opportunities for others than he makes for himself.” John Paul Jackson. Paul Bennison is exhibiting such qualities. #grateful #humbled Brian Louden