Wow…last week we were checking out of our hotel in Havana and this week we are sitting in the lobby of another hotel. This time in Austin.
Typical of us we manage to pack a lot of events into short spaces and are enjoying getting to attend a wedding with John down here in Texas.
When people ask about the focus of our ministry in Cuba: basically we helped the local church by bringing in materials and supplying man-power to help with needed maintenance and provide a mini-Bible school.
But I would also say the real mission was much like we read of the early Church in the New Testament.
It was fellowshipping and worshipping with the Body of Christ in another country.
And as with all mission trips I have ever been on, I got way more than I gave.
While the Christians in this country are certainly the minority and the framework of government and culture are even more restrictive for the people of the Cross there than here…they unabashedly gathered in their homes and like Daniel, with windows and doors wide open…they sang and prayed and proclaimed the Good News.
On the last night we had a closing service on the rooftop of their church.
Youth from the local church mingled with our group as we settled onto the rings of concrete blocks under the night sky.
We were encouraged to alternate Cubans and Americans so we were truly coming together as one body.
We sang and shared and then the pastor gave a message on the inevitable discouragement we will face as followers of Christ. He used three pillars of faith in Scripture: Elijah, Asaph and Jeremiah.
These great men of God all experienced times of doubt. The kind where life and circumstances beat them down to the point they wondered if God really even cared or was this whole faith thing just another fairy tale.
Each faced a place of feeling abandoned and ready to quit.
He then encouraged us with God’s care for each of these men and how they moved from doubt to faith.
He closed this time by offering to pray for anyone who was weary from a long season of trial.
As vocal and out there as I can appear to be with this calling God has placed on my life to write and to share my heart, I am not the first person to hop to her feet and step forward in a crowd of even familiar faces.
And so the immediacy with which I rose to my feet in the middle of so many attests to the truth that when God’s Spirit is invited into a setting, God will work in amazing ways.
Because even as I found my stiff body rising from that concrete block, I saw several others doing the same. We were compelled to rise, and to receive that night the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
In the circle of prayer, the pastor laid hands on each one of us. He prayed in the Spirit and in Spanish as our translator spoke God’s word for each of us, over us.
The only way I can describe what was spoken over me would be to echo the words of the woman at the well…I met a man who told me everything I had done.
The word of encouragement that spilled out over the hand of the pastor holding my head was as if he knew every doubt and discouraging word I have spoken to myself for the last six years.
And then to confirm every hope or dream that has propelled me forward each letter typed for a post or blog, each word prepared to teach or exhort.
There is no way on this earth that pastor knows what has been carried in my heart to the point of breaking me. He could not know the private conversations I have held in what I hoped was prayer and listening and obeying the One I have give my life to follow.
But God knows.
God spoke to me through a brother and sister who used their gifting under the authority of the Holy Spirit to renew this fainting heart.
To hear someone who doesn’t even know me or my story tell me almost word for word my own deepest fears and the core of my mission statement…was an incredible experience.
And then so sweet of God, to make sure I didn’t forget…on our return as I sat at our familiar kitchen table…starting another day back in the routines that make up my every day life…my morning passage included the passage of Scripture used in the prophecy spoken over me two days earlier.
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. Isaiah 48:10
The trials I have walked through have not been because the Lord does not love me or as punishment. They were handpicked and forged by God for my good and the good of those I am called to serve.
The trials of my days are for the refining of my soul and to enable me to effectively complete the calling He has placed on my life.
Or as the final word spoken over me confirmed what God has whispered to me so many times as I weep over these keys…How can you encourage others to come through the fire if you have not been in the furnace yourself?
And if your mind is bent toward skepticism and you think a generic, one-word-fits-all prophecy gimmick happened…
let me assure you…
each person in that circle received a personal word that spoke intimate knowledge of the details of each story…
because God KNOWS us and God KNOWS not only the particulars of each trial…
He knows the purpose and the outcome and you can be assured today…
HE LOVES YOU and HE IS FOR YOU <3