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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Setting Prisoners Free in Zimbabwe

Some of our Team
In Masvingo, Zimbabwe at a medical clinic with Jewish Voice Ministries International (JVMI) the extraordinary happened, again. This was my fourth medical clinic with JVMI, and honestly it moved slower at the start than the previous clinics I had been on. By Wednesday night I had resigned myself to not having a single amazing moment. For context, on my first trip sang the Aaronic Benediction over 700 Ethiopian pastors in the old African Union in Ethiopia and then again over 1500 people in the new African Union. Amazing. On my second trip, I preached the Gospel to an entire Beta-Israel village near Tach Gayint, Ethiopia and saw the whole village come to faith in Yeshua. What?! Ridiculous. On my third trip, this time to Zimbabwe, a young woman came with manifestations from a demon that would confuse her so much that she would go into a type of walking sleep and wake up lost; once, she woke up to find herself standing in a fire, her foot and leg burnt as a result. She came to the clinic clearly manifesting without control, and in the power of the name of Yeshua we were able to set her free. I had the chance to lead not only her, but her extended family to Yeshua, her father saying the words at the end, “We will follow the God that set her free from this demon.” I know, it sounds like a Bible story! Why does the Lord let me experience such amazing things? I am not sure, but I am grateful for the opportunities He gives me. 
Messianic Congregation in Masvingo, Zimbabwe 
On these trips, we open the clinic on Sunday afternoon (half day) and close them at noon on Friday (ends with a half day). Altogether the clinic is open 5 full days, so by the time we get to Wednesday night there is only a day-and-a-half left and we begin to finish the clinic. So, on my fourth trip, again in Zimbabwe, we came to Wednesday night. Based on history, I expect at least one major thing to happen. Don't get me wrong - I am not saying that this is the way it has to be, and I try to bring no expectation of what will happen on these trips. But at the same time, I live by the promise that God will do more than I can hope or imagine, and if you know me at all you know I can imagine pretty big.

On Thursday morning, I preached a sermon at the morning meeting for our international volunteers and local workers out of Exodus 14 and 15. The story follows the exodus of Israel from Egypt after 400 years of slavery and the parting of the Sea of Reeds where Israel walks through on dry land, and then the waters crash on the pursuing Egyptians and their chariots, drowning the enemies of Israel. The end of Exodus 14 reads, “So Adonai saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. When Israel saw the great work that Adonai did over the Egyptians, the people feared Adonai, and they believed in Adonai and in His servant Moses.” Then in Exodus 15 Moses sings a song to the Lord, 

I will sing to Adonai, for He is highly exalted!
The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea.
Adonai is my strength and song,
and He has become my salvation.
This is my God, and I will glorify Him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.
Adonai is a warrior—Adonai is His Name!
Pharaoh’s chariots and his army
He has hurled into the sea,
and his chosen captains have sunk
into the Sea of Reeds. (Exodus 15:1-4)

The enemy said, “I will pursue,
I will overtake, I will divide the spoil.
My lust shall gorge on them!
I will draw my sword—my hand will destroy them.”
You blew with Your wind, the sea covered them.
They sank like lead in the mighty waters.
Who is like You, Adonai, among the gods?
Who is like You,
glorious in holiness,
awesome in praises,
doing wonders? (Exodus 15:9-11)

People waiting for prayer
I shared these verses at our morning meeting to encourage everyone to finish well. I wanted them to know that though the people we were ministering to were facing despair and darkness, the God of Israel wanted them to experience hope and light. That we came not just to help them physically but to show them Yeshua, and much like Israel crossing the Sea of Reeds we had already seen God do amazing things and that we can believe that in our last day-and-a-half in Zimbabwe our God was willing to do more than we can hope or imagine. I preached hard. I preached well. I needed to hear it myself for what was about to happen that afternoon. 

On Wednesday evening we got a call that a local prison wanted to send some prisoners to receive care at the clinic. On Thursday afternoon, twenty three of them came in a giant military-style bus with no windows. Handcuffed to the guy next to them and surrounded by armed officers, we needed to make sure they didn't interact with the general population of our clinic. Our team did a great job of getting these guys around the clinic to receive care. We cleared out one of the tents so we could gather all of these guys together and share the Gospel with them. They all sat quietly waiting, still handcuffed to the guy next to them; and with a translator this is what I told them… 

“We are so glad that you are here and that we have had the opportunity to serve you guys. You need to know that Yeshua our Messiah was crucified with two criminals. One chose to mock Yeshua and the other asked to be remembered. I know you feel forgotten but you need to know that we have not forgotten you, and more importantly the God who formed you in your mother’s womb has not forgotten you either. Although you live in a cell, God wants to set your hearts and souls free, today. He can set you free if you ask Him to forgive you of your sins and accept Yeshua as God and Savior.”

Prisoners, officers, translators and prayer team
We offered them prayer, two by two, and the opportunity to accept Yeshua and to ask him to forgive them of their sins. All twenty three prisoners chose to believe in Yeshua. Several of them asked for a Bible and we told them we would send them and that the Bible is not just a book but, if they read it, the Holy Spirit would bring the words to life and set their hearts, minds, and souls free. Even the officers accepted prayer from us as a group, and asked that if we were sending the prisoners Bibles that we send them for the officers as well!

Prayer Team
More than I can hope or imagine?! You better believe it. I don't plan these amazing moments on these trips but my God does. He just asks that I show up and trust Him. It is not even just about the one big moment, it’s about the amazing doctors, dentists, nurses, international volunteers, and local workers that make it possible to help over 9,600 people, to pray for 2,399 people, to see 322 people come to know Yeshua, and to see at least 18 verifiable healings in the name of Yeshua. We saw with our own eyes the lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear and in this case at least 23 prisoners set free! The one big moment is my God’s way of putting a giant dollop of whip cream on top of the sundae. 

Back in Seattle, I made a joke in a group of pastors that for some reason my ministry is more effective in Africa than in Seattle, and then I went into a few-day funk because, momentarily, I believed it. It took me several days to come around because I believed that lie. Ministry that I do is effective, not because of me, but because of the God I serve. Here is what I know for sure: my God does more than I can hope or imagine - in Africa, in Israel, in America, in Seattle, in my congregation, for my family, my marriage, my children, their school, our friends. My God wants to pull people out of darkness and despair and show them light and hope in the name of Yeshua. He wants to use me and YOU to do it. And if given the opportunity, He might just change your life, increase your faith, and allow you to do amazing things for His glory! Without doubt (okay, maybe enough doubt to give God room to do amazing things), I can say, “The best is yet to come.” For me, my family, Restoration, Seattle, Messianic Judaism, the larger body of Messiah (Church), and anyone from any nation, Jew or Gentile, who calls on the name of Yeshua! 

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