Last night and the night before I had Esan stay with me. He is an ex-Muslim believer from Iran. Esan has lived in Italy since 1990. He said that from youth, he loved bombs and dreamed of exploding himself along with hundreds of infidels. Then in 1992 he met Jesus, and his life has never been the same. He says that he can’t imagine wanting to explode bombs now.
The hatred that Esan had in his heart has been replaced by a love that is both sacrificial and supernatural. When the Italian financial crisis hit, Esan lost his engineering job. He has had a few low-paying jobs since then, but has mostly had to rely on his wife’s income to survive—something very humbling for a man from his cultural background. He became a stay-at-home dad to his three kids (aged 8 to 16), and an evangelist to the Muslim community of Italy.
In reality, I know that his service to his family and to the kingdom is precious to God—far more precious than earning €400 a month doing menial labor just for the sake of contributing financially. Still, as a man from his culture, it’s been hard for him to deal with.
I was about to start a load of laundry, but I hate running the washer for anything less than a full load. I asked Esan if he had any laundry to contribute. Typical of a man from his culture, he said, “I couldn’t ask you to wash my sweaty and intimate things! It’s better if I just wrap them up and take them home to wash.” So I thought that I should probably wait until I have a full load to run.
Esan continued to tell me how hard things have been for him since he lost his job, how his kids nag him because they can’t have everything they want—things he would like to give them. I could see that it had him down. So what did I do? I encouraged him by telling about a couple of times that God provided for me in supernatural ways:
My Income Crisis – In 2011 my income was cut in half, but I responded by giving the problem to God and continuing to do everything I needed to do in ministry: travel, meet with missionaries over coffee or a meal, etc. I didn’t waste any time wondering if God would provide. His Word says that He is my Provider, and crazy as that sounds, I just believe it.
When I returned to the US in the fall of 2011, I knew that I would need to pay all my biggest bills (property taxes, registration and inspection on the car, etc.) and somehow also manage Christmas. But at this thought, I simply gave the problem back to God to handle for me. About half an hour later, my brother picked me up from the airport. He informed me that our Grandfather’s second wife had died. That dear lady had remembered us in her will—$12,000, which enough to make up for half the shortfall, but not enough to be taxable. Now I could cover those bills and buy presents. I had never dreamed that she would leave something for us in her will.
When we got to the house, my sister-in-law greeted me with a box. Inside was three valuable Indian pots that I had left at my brother’s house in anticipation of having a stranger living in my own house. Just before returning to the US, my brother’s house burned down. My pottery miraculously survived the collapse of the roof, but the black-on-black glaze that had made these three pieces valuable and unique was burned off. I didn’t want to make a claim on his insurance because my brother literally lost everything, so I took the pots to my homeowner’s insurance agent. She carefully investigated, photographed, ordered an appraisal, and discovered the value of the pottery, and cut me a check for $10,600—far more than I had ever imagined.
Between these two surprise windfalls, my entire income was made up, but I only had to pay taxes on half the income.
That first story stirred Esan, but he remained discouraged because of all the people who have been telling him that he must go get a job and contribute to the family like a man (including his wife, his children, and his pastor). So I shared another time when God supernaturally provided for me:
When I got this apartment, it wasn’t a fast process, but rather a fasting process. I knew that the Lord wanted me to remain in my old neighborhood. The only instruction He gave me was to ask for an apartment with two bathrooms. The only available apartment with two bathrooms was this one. It looked perfect, except for one thing: it was beyond my budget. I asked the landlord to come down in price just a little bit, but he refused—no negotiation. So I went down front at church for prayer.
Giuseppe does crowd control at church, so he took his place in front of me to pray for me, but continued for a while to direct people where to stand, keep the aisle clear, etc. Suddenly, without asking me what I wanted prayer for, he grabbed my shoulders and started praying for me. Part of what he prayed was: “Lord, we know that Alisa will have to fast and pray for her answer.” So I began fasting and praying about the apartment, believing all the while that the Lord would move the Landlord to lower the rent.
While fasting I received some really amazing and encouraging confirmation about the apartment in dreams, but no word at all from the landlord. I didn’t know how long I would be fasting, but I was prepared to fast until I had my answer.
On day 19 of the fast, I received an email prophecy newsletter that said, in part, “Take a leap of faith.” Not a step, a leap. I thought it might be about the apartment, but I felt in my spirit that I should wait.
On day 20 of the fast was a Sunday. I was visiting a small church near Milan when the pastor’s wife walked in and stopped the worship in the middle of a song—something I’ve never heard of anyone doing! She said, “The Lord just told me that someone here needs to be very bold and daring.” My heart leaped, and I thought about the apartment. But then a whole bunch of people went down front for prayer, so I thought maybe not.
Then the next day, day 21 of the fast, I had been staying with Sally, my ministry partner. She had just returned from a conference in Rome where Lisa Bevere had spoken. As soon as Lisa finished speaking, they had the DVD ready to sell—which is a miracle because in Italy it usually takes a couple of weeks before they have the DVD or CD ready to sell right away. So she asked if I wanted to watch it. I said yes. At the end of her message, Lisa looked right into the camera, just like she was looking at me and said: “You need to take a crazy leap of faith before your brain has a chance to kick-in.”
Immediately, I took the phone out of my pocket and called the real estate agent. I told him: “Let’s set an appointment to sign the apartment contract.” And when I hung up the phone, I said: “OK, Lord, I’m doing my part. Now I need for You to do Yours.” And He has. There were a couple of times that I didn’t know if I had the money to cover the rent, but it has always been there.
I don’t live a lavish lifestyle. I’m a simple person with few personal needs. But I do lavish generously on the missionaries in my care. I believe that this is why God is so generous with me.
At this, Esan was encouraged because he had seen—and experienced my generosity. He said: “It’s true, you are very generous. OK, I have decided to let you wash my laundry. But you must let me hang things out.” I said: “It’s a deal!”
So, here I am, enjoying the Shunammite’s blessing (2 Kings 4:8-37). Through the prophet, God promised her a child and resurrected her child when he died. Like her, I have opened my home to God’s people. And like her, I am receiving the blessing of children—spiritual children. God had told me to enlarge my tent, stretch my tent curtains wide, and do not hold back (Isaiah 54:2), and this is what I have done.
Do you know what the worst curse is? The worst curse is to miss out on a blessing that God has for you. Whatever God has called you to do, just do it with all your heart. No matter how humble your service is, God will bless you generously. God is good!
Post Script: I wrote this as Esan slept. When he woke up, he came to me and said, “Do you know who you are? You’re the Shunammite woman!” I had just finished printing this post, and I picked it up and showed him. Both of us had tears in our eyes. This is why I write only non-fiction. You could never make up some of the amazing, crazy, wonderful things that God does for us! God is good! I know I say it all the time, and I don’t care if I’m repeating myself, it’s true: God is good!