Yesterday morning we had Dirk, a local pastor speak, to us about the importance of prayer. It was very encouraging and stirring. Dirk and his church have been praying for Albania for many years now, and he explained it like a cup being filled up. Each prayer is like a drop in the cup, and drop by drop, the cup gets fuller and fuller until it finally reaches the point of overflowing. At that point, the cup tips and the prayers are fulfilled. Dirk also encouraged us to pray, not always begging God over and over for what we want, but also to pray in other ways: spending silent time in His presence, seeking His face, and asking God what He wants from us. We should always enter prayer time by being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
All of that was very encouraging to me, personally. I have a huge list of people that I pray for, and sometimes it is overwhelming. But I don’t have to go down the list person-by-person and need-by-need each day. If I faithfully bring it to the Lord, He will not forget it. In this way, prayer time becomes easier and more enjoyable.
Then we went to pray at Parliament. Some members of the team had invitations to go inside, meet with a Member of Parliament, and pray. The rest of us (me included) stayed outside and prayed. Then I went to lunch at a Christian restaurant. I met the owner, who is a fellow American. What I had heard about Albania is that it is majority Muslim (and Tirana has five mosques), but I haven’t seen many women wearing the headscarf, nor have I seen any other evidence of a Muslim presence. I suspect that the so-called Muslim majority here are culturally Muslim more than religiously. And the presence of churches and a Christian restaurant are accepted here without any of the usual problems seen in other Muslim majority countries. That is something I could never have predicted before coming to Albania. And perhaps the reason for the peaceful co-existence of Christians and Muslims in Albania is because of Pastor Dirk and his church preparing the ground in prayer for the past couple of decades.
Then last night the message given to us by Stefan, a pastor from Greece, was so personally encouraging that it blew my mind. He told us that the Holy Spirit had instructed him to hold a prayer conference on in Jerusalem in the fall of 2009. Stefan didn’t understand why it had to be in Jerusalem, and not in Athens, where he lives, but he was obedient to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. While he was in Jerusalem, he had a vision on the Mount of Olives. He suddenly saw all signs of modern Jerusalem (cars, buildings, tourists) vanish, and instead he saw thousands and thousands of angels standing all around him, looking at him. They told Stefan, “We have been here all along.” And in that moment in his surprised amazement, the only response he could manage was, “Oh.” Then the Holy Spirit revealed to him the times and the seasons: Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year, which had been 19 September in 2009) marked the start of a new decade according to the Jewish calendar. And Stefan pointed out to us that God has always followed the Jewish calendar. So on 19 September 2009, the Jewish calendar turned from the year 5769 to 5770. The Holy Spirit told Stefan that the 70’s (Jewish calendar 70’s) would be the decade for Europe.
If you could have seen my face when he said that, you would have seen a slowly-dawning recognition of what this meant to me, personally, ending with my hand over my mouth and my eyes rolling around, as I tried to take it all in. Here’s why: in the fall of 2009, about a year after my divorce, I was riding my bike one morning and singing praises to God in Italian. I suddenly stopped and said, “Lord, I’ll bet I’m the only person in Texas who is praising You in Italian.” And God immediately responded by inviting me to come back to Italy. So that day I booked travel to Italy for a month’s stay. I thought it was only for a visit, to see my friends and visit my church again. It was during that month in Italy that God revealed my ministry to me. And my ministry was exactly what I had always been doing (seeking out missionaries, encouraging them, praying for them, and helping them), only on a larger scale—all over Europe.
So I had been called at precisely the beginning of the Jewish calendar 70’s for Europe. It was a stunningly personal confirmation. God is good!