A New Beginning and Goodbye to Sarajevo

Tara Canyon

Tara Canyon, Bosnia-Herzegovina

This trip with Operation Capitals of Europe (OCE) to Podgorica and Sarajevo has been an extraordinary one.  Like I said in yesterday’s post, Sarajevo is the halfway point—25th of approximately 50 European capitals.  And Sarajevo calls itself The Heart of Europe.  It’s also the place where East and West meet in Europe.

Plus there has been a heavenly shift on this trip.  Prayer has gotten easier, the burdens lighter, and the work more fun.  We functioned more effectively as a team, despite past glitches with the issue of unity.  Our love and respect for one another has grown as we’ve come to recognize each other’s giftings—which brings us back to teamwork.  We’ve learned how to rely on each other’s strengths.  In Podgorica we were seven—four OCE regulars and three who joined us.  Here in Sarajevo we were 25 – 40, some only attended the meetings in the church, but several also came along to prayer walk with us.

Even with new people (and the locals, who are always new), this time we worked so well as a team.  Frankly, it’s a relief to know that I don’t have to carry the full burden of this ministry myself.  I know that I couldn’t do it alone.  So I work in my gifts and let the others work in theirs, and that way the burden is light for each of us.  But this is a remarkable group of people who don’t try either to self-promote or leave the whole burden on others.  Over the years and several trips together, we’ve learned when to come forward and when to step back and let another teammate do the work, and usually the locals blend in nicely, adding their prayers and prophecies in their own language.

So today was the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, here in Sarajevo.  We went down to the bridge where the shots were fired, arriving at 10:00.  There was a place in the street that was open for the team to enter, and once in, the crowd closed around us and many people walked through little gaps in our group of about 25.  One woman had made a flag of a lion roaring, and shared a vision of a roaring lion.  I had a vision of a lion stepping on the head of a dragon.  Different people took turns holding the flag, and almost as soon as we were in place, people started asking about the flag, and it became a wonderful opportunity to share the love of Jesus.  Even news reporters from different countries came up to us, asking about the flag.  I spoke with a reporter from Italy and another from Hungary.  A couple of reporters recorded us singing and dancing.  For the first time, I was completely uninhibited in public worship.  It was wonderful.  Then someone from the City of Sarajevo Museum drove up with the Archduke’s car, parked it in the middle of the crowd, and cordoned it off.

Then we walked to the fountain in the middle of the Old Town Square, prayed some more, and walked to the East-West divider, and prayed some more.  From there we walked, worshiping all along the way, to Parliament Square.  We said some final prayers there, and then said goodbye because almost everyone was leaving town immediately afterwards.  Many people from previous trips to the Balkans had joined us here, so it had been wonderful to see them, but sad to make our goodbyes.

Two of my OCE teammates and I remain in town for another day, so we went to lunch together.  Tomorrow I will take an early bus to Belgrade and fly back to Milan from there.  It will be a long day of travel after more than two weeks away from home.  Although I will be glad to get back home, it’s hard to leave my friends—co-workers in God’s Grand Plan to save Europe.  Our next trip will be in September, and the adventure will continue.  God is good!

Lion flag

 

Redeeming Sarajevo’s Bloody Past

Muddy riverThe muddy river

So much about Sarajevo has amazed me.  First was Corrie’s personal story of war (The War—History Becomes Real), then we learned some surprising things.

Sarajevo is Operation Capitals of Europe’s 25th capital out of an estimated 50—this marks the halfway point*.  And the interesting thing about that is that the tide is turning, so prayer has started to become much easier.  Places that you would expect to be hard places to pray (like Bosnia-Herzegovina, which has a Muslim majority) have become easier to pray in.  And sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ has never been easier.  Evangelism is not the focus of OCE, but when an opportunity to share the love of Jesus presents itself, we are faithful to do so.

In fact, we had a surprise this morning when a Muslim man from Bosnia’s most radical sect knocked on the door of the church and asked for someone to tell him about Jesus.  This was during our morning prayer and strategy session before prayer walking in the city.  The pastor of this church had answered the knock, and told the man about Jesus—which he received eagerly.

For me, the Muslim coming to church was a personal confirmation because just this morning, I was, oh well not really praying, but sort of musing in God’s presence about the seriously religious Muslims (which seem to be a minority here).  And God showed me that some of them are sincerely seeking Him—and of course, the Bible says that when we seek God, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).

What we do is prophetic prayer, so it’s often accompanied by prophetic acts.  We pray as the Holy Spirit directs us.  So when we went out to prayer walk in the city, a young couple heard us praying by the river where it flows into the city.  One of our local believers noticed their interest, so he greeted them.  They asked about our prayers, and he explained about praying for the city.  They asked what we had thrown into the river.  And he explained that it was salt to purify the river, and how only the blood of Jesus can purify us and save us from our sin.  They were so happy that they started laughing.  The woman was fanning herself with her hand (Pentecostal-style!) and laughing.  So he made an appointment to see them tomorrow and promised to give them Bibles and a copy of the Jesus film.

In this land where death has reigned for so long, the Author of Life has come to bring life and hope.  Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife—which happened here in Sarajevo.  I feel that Sarajevo has passed through a door, and today starts the true history of Sarajevo—a history of life and love and hope in Jesus Christ.  God is good!

* Nobody can say for certain exactly how many countries are in Europe because there are countries that are not universally recognized, like the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (which is recognized only by itself and Turkey), Transnistria (which is recognized only by itself), Kosovo (recognized by all the world except Serbia), Wales, Scotland, and the Channel Islands (which are self-governing regions of the UK), the Faroe Islands (a self-governing region of Denmark), and all the countries that sort of straddle Europe and Asia: Turkey, Russia, and Georgia.

100 years Sarajevo

The War—History Becomes Real

War museumSarajevo War Museum

Greetings from Sarajevo!

Upon our arrival we were met by a missionary couple, Gerald and Corrie.  Gerald is American and Corrie is Dutch, but now an American citizen.  They took us to Old Town Sarajevo for an authentic Bosnian dinner.  After our delicious meal, we went for a Turkish coffee, but found the Turkish coffee shops full of noisy soccer fans because Bosnia was playing in the World Cup.  So we found a regular coffee shop.  Over coffee and dessert, Corrie told me their war story:

We were missionaries here for five years, and I had thought that we would always stay here.  We had three small children, the youngest two had been born here, and I was pregnant with the fourth.  We knew that war was a possibility, but the news media minimized the threat.  And besides that, they had signed the treaty, so we didn’t really think that it would happen.  But regardless, in war or peace, we were determined to stay.  We were young and the call of God for Sarajevo was so strong for both of us that really, we were in denial about the serious possibility of war.

Nevertheless, we needed to go back to the US to raise support and meet with our church, and the best time would be for two months beginning in April, so that we could be back for the summer because summer was an important time in our ministry.

Rachel, an American who had lived in Israel, had just come to help me with the children, and she would stay in the house while we were gone.  We went with two empty suitcases because there were many things that we couldn’t get in Sarajevo, so we intended to buy things to bring back.  We never imagined that we were leaving for good.  So we left and two weeks later, war broke out.

I felt so bad—almost guilty—for having left, though I know now that it was God’s plan to rescue our family.  I was concerned for our friends and neighbors, and of course for Rachel.  Contact was impossible, all communication was cut off.  On TV, we saw the tanks entering town in the very park where our children played.  It was surreal, and I tried to understand what I was seeing.

At this point shouting filled the street—Bosnia had won the soccer match, and the street quickly filled with flag-draped, cheering fans.  Corrie smiled at me, and continued:

Since we couldn’t come back to Sarajevo, we lived for seven years in the Netherlands, before finally moving to the US.  Gerald traveled back once a year, doing what he could here.

We visited Sarajevo after the war, not knowing what we would find.  Rachel, having lived in a war zone, had gotten herself out safely.  But our friends and neighbors?  Information was slow in coming, and in many cases, we never found out at all.  One family from the church had gotten out and moved to Germany, close to the border with the Netherlands, so we were able to visit them while we lived there.  We had heard about another couple from church who moved to the US.  And a friend who was also pregnant had been taken in the night to the hospital, and gave birth there by candlelight.

We found our house with the door and all the windows missing.  All our things had been taken, though we found a hand juicer in a corner, and the familiarity of the object was jarring.  Then I went upstairs and began screaming for Gerald.  All our family pictures were strewn all over the floor, taken out of the albums.  We gathered them like lost treasure.  Those were the only things, besides the washer, that remained—and the washer had been gutted for parts, like an abandoned car.  A few days later, we returned to the house and found that even the empty hull of the washer had been hauled off.

So our children grew up in the States.  Then last year, Gerald told me that he wants to move back to Sarajevo.  I didn’t feel ready to move back, leaving our children there (and a daughter in Holland) but after much prayer, I agreed, and we moved in August.

I was speechless at first.  It was a very sobering thing to arrive in Sarajevo and find that the house across the street from our lodgings with bullet holes all over the façade from when the soldiers with Kalashnikovs had sprayed the area with gunfire—especially knowing how recent that war was.  But it was another thing altogether to hear this personal story of war and God’s miraculous rescue of this family.  Imagine what might have happened if they had stayed.  They might have lost the baby (and mother!) or Gerald might have been killed.

And this morning, Corrie brought a friend to meet me.  She has been friends with Radosta for 26 years.  Radosta recalled with smiles how she had carried their youngest in a baby backpack through town.  Radosta would sing and the baby would lift her hands in praise.  Reuniting with Radosta had been a real joy and a blessing for Corrie.

God calls each of us into divine partnership with Him, and for those who answer His call (unless He has called them for martyrdom), He shields them and their family from harm.  God is good!

cemetery parkThis had been the park where Corrie’s children had sledded down the hill.  Now it’s a cemetery for those who died in the war–including their first convert to Christianity.

Worshiping with Laughter in Podgorica

TitogradTitograd–AKA Podgorica

Greetings from Podgorica!

This morning, after a strategy meeting for prayer walking in Podgorica (the capital of Montenegro), we met with some missionaries over coffee.  They explained the particular challenges for the church here, which boiled down to suspicion and division.  They couldn’t stay long, so we prayed for them, and blessed them in their ministry here.

Meanwhile a couple of teammates went to talk and pray with a newspaper man (a Christian) who is a former minister in the government, and who likely could have a future role in the government of Montenegro.  The teammates who went to his office were one who has a special calling to pray for government, and the other is a missionary in Albania, and thus, the only teammate based in the Balkans.  By coincidence (or as I’ve recently heard it termed, “God-incidence”), both are Norwegian men.  The rest of the team went prayer walking in the center of the city.

Our walk took us down to the confluence of the small river that runs through the city center and a larger river.  It is a really beautiful spot on waters that are sparkling clear.  We found a small cave into which a small stage has been built.  But it looks as if the site has long been abandoned, and probably used as a teenage hangout for drinking and drug use.  The stage has been torn up and there is broken glass everywhere.  Nevertheless, the natural beauty of this place is undeniable.  We found there a couple of girls who had set up easels and were drawing.  The Holy Spirit spoke to us of this place as being a place of worship and the release of creative gifts.  So we included worship in our prayers there.  It was there that the Holy Spirit revealed hope to me.  I felt such hope for this city and this country.

Then one teammate told us of a statue that spoke to her of the powerful weapon that worship is against the enemy.  It is a statue of a man holding a guitar in one hand, with his other hand raised to Heaven, and under his feet is a skull.  So we went there for more prayer and worship.

On the way back through the city center, we were surprised to find our Norwegian teammates.  They told us that the half hour appointment with the newspaperman had been extended to 50 minutes because he was so interested in what they had to tell him.  They prayed for him, prophesied over him, and showed him things in the Bible that he found very encouraging.  Needless to say, they were likewise encouraged by the meeting.

At that time, we split up, some going for lunch, others for a rest.  Afterwards, we met again for a more formal debriefing of our morning’s adventures before beginning our afternoon adventure on the hill: Gorica.  Podgorica means underneath or at the foot of Gorica.  In the Communist Era, Podgorica had been renamed Titograd, for Tito, dictator of Yugoslavia—and the name remains in some parts of the city.

A little way up the hill is the tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War II.  Honestly, it looks just like an altar.  From there, it is obvious that the Communists, despite protesting that that they worship no god is a lie because they worship death.  The tomb of the Unknown Soldier is an altar to death, and there had been a spirit of death that has reigned for a long time over this city.  Our Balkan teammates both felt headaches coming on as we mounted the steps to the tomb.  They prayed the headache away, and it left immediately.  So we used our God-given authority and broke the death spirit’s hold on this land.  We also sang a worship song, and the heavy atmosphere lifted.

Farther up the hill, closer to the top, we found a couple of benches which were great places overlooking the city.  So we rested there before continuing up the hill.  At the top, Gorica is flat, and from there we couldn’t look down on the city.  There at the top, I felt a headache coming on in a different place from the side where I had always gotten migraines.  It was clearly a spiritual attack, but I just prayed it away, and it left immediately.  We prayed some prayers at the top, repenting for the blood-guilt upon the land, and performing a prophetic act by pouring a little wine into the soil to cover the blood-guilt with the blood of Christ.

Then we went back to the benches to pray, prophesy, and proclaim over the city.  Again, I felt hope rising in my spirit for this country.

At the foot of the hill is the oldest church in Montenegro.  It had fallen into disrepair, but is now being repaired, and restored.  Behind the church is a graveyard, with stone sarcophagi, many of which lay open and empty.  One even had a tree growing out of it.  That is a strong symbol of resurrection, and resurrection brought to mind that repeated feeling of hope.

In the evening, we went to meet with local believers: a couple who are expecting their first child in a few weeks, and the husband’s mother.  We got together for the purpose of encouraging them, but also to worship together.  As we worshiped, laughter broke out, first in the husband, then spreading to all of us.  I prophesied a joy anointing upon them and their house, rippling out to all the neighbors and across the city.  Also, I prophesied that their baby girl will be a worshiper—which was immediately confirmed by the wife.

So this was an amazing day, full of hope and worship and laughter.  God is good!

The Prince bows to the King of Kings

millenium cross

The Millennium Cross – The biggest cross in the world (sorry Rio!)

On the schedule was an item that said Prince Philip of Prussia would speak.  I wasn’t sure if this was an actual prince or if he fancied himself a prince or if he had taken the name Prince like the singer.  In any case, I was curious.

At the appointed time, a thin, well-dressed man came to the stage.  It didn’t even occur to me that this might be the prince because he’s a man that you would never pick out of a group as being royalty of any kind.  In fact, he seems almost too humble and unprepossessing.

He introduced himself and his family tree (follow the link above, and you can read all that).  Prince Philip became a believer at the age of eighteen, and is now a pastor.  He spoke of his great-grandfather, William II (also known as Kaiser Wilhelm), and the start of World War I.  Although he was deeply shocked by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, it was a war he never wanted.  When you understand the family relations, you will understand why he didn’t want the war: he was the eldest and best-loved grandson of Queen Victoria.  In fact, the rulers of Russia, Spain, Norway, Romania, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Greece were all his family.  So it’s easy to understand why he didn’t want war in Europe.  But the generals insisted that it was necessary to respond to the assassination quickly and with power.  The tragedy is that William II was a believer, but he lacked the faith to seek God for the answer.

Banner over me

So because of his great-grandfather’s lack of faith, a war resulted with over 37 million military and civilian deaths.  And William II abdicated, opening the way for Hitler (obviously, I’m over-simplifying for the sake of brevity), and the deadliest war of all time, World War II, with an estimated 30 – 50 million military and civilian deaths.

Then came a moment when the whole hall was so silent that it seemed that we scarcely dared to draw a breath.  Prince Philip drew a deep breath and stated his desire to repent on behalf of his family for Europe’s bloodiest century, and asked our forgiveness before God.  I was sitting in the first row, and I don’t know if I was first, but I didn’t see anyone before me leap to their feet faster and begin clapping.  Then the whole hall was on their feet, clapping and clapping for several minutes.  The conference leaders went up on stage and surrounded Prince Philip, and the applause went on and on.  My hands were aching, but I could not stop.  I applauded his courage and integrity, and my willingness to forgive such a man.  And I wanted him to know that he is forgiven.  Well, obviously, he knows that God forgives, but I wanted him to know that I forgive, too.

Trumpet globe

Finally, the conference leaders each embraced Prince Philip, stating their forgiveness on behalf of their nations and their families.  It was one of the most moving moments I’ve ever witnessed, and I feel certain that it changed the spiritual atmosphere over Europe.  Now, I believe, Revival can happen here.  God is good!

world in Skopje

 

Reset!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere he is!  Alexander of Macedonia!

When I arrived in Skopje yesterday after three hours in a bus on windy mountain roads, I was pleasantly surprised to immediately meet friends in the lobby of my hotel.  Then came the unpleasant surprise that the hotel had overbooked, so instead of a double with my good friend Fifi, I was put in a five bed dormitory room with four strangers.  But of course, I realized that God’s people here in Europe all know many of the same people, so even if we didn’t have a previous connection with each other, we know the same people, and were able to expand each other’s networks a bit.  So that helped me to reset my attitude from annoyed to interested in meeting my new roommates, each of whom was here for the very same purpose: attending the European Trumpet Call.

So, soon after arriving, I took a walk downtown with Lars and his family.  Lars is Norwegian, but he has lived in France for many years.  He has a French wife and has raised a family in France.  Joining us was their friend, Monica, and also with Gerda, who were two my four unexpected roommates.  Both Monica and Gerda had requested single rooms, so we were all in the same predicament.  Lars and I had been to Skopje before, so we showed them Skopje’s major cultural overkill in the form of too many statues too close to one another, and some of them much larger than usual, like the statue of Alexander the Great—or Alexander of Macedonia, as he is known here.

Lars had a leaders meeting to attend for the conference, so he left us to our sightseeing.  Gerda noted that she had not eaten since breakfast, so we went to a good cafeteria under the shopping mall in the center of town.  This is a place where you can get real Macedonian dishes at a very good price.

As we ate and talked, a man at a table nearby overheard French, and asked about where we are from.  We told him: Brigitte, Stella, and Monica (Lars’ wife, daughter, and friend), from France, Gerda, from Germany, and me from Italy.  As we finished our meal, we spoke about the conference and about prayer.  I noticed that the man listened intently to our conversation.  Then he asked if we had tried ajvar, a Macedonian salad made from roasted peppers, garlic, eggplant, and colored red from paprika.  So he ordered us a plate of it.  We all tried some, and it was delicious.  He said that sometimes it can be quite spicy.  I told him: “Fa-la,” which means thank you.  He corrected with a much longer phrase, saying that fa-la is actually Albanian (or Serbian?  I don’t remember now).  Nevertheless, I have found that whenever I say fa-la in Macedonia, people understand that I’m saying thank you.  Having by far the youngest brain among us, and being also the least travel-weary, Stella took a mini-lesson right there, learning a few useful words and phrases.

Stella used those words at our next destination: a Christian-owned ice cream shop.  We enjoyed our dessert, and now the conversation became mostly French.  I was so tired by now, from travel and walking, that I just listened to it like the lovely sound of water in a rocky stream.

When we got back to the hotel, I went to our room, where two other women had joined us—both of them from Germany.  So then, after a brief period of including Monica and me, the conversation became German.  That was fine with me, and I went to bed with the murmuring of German, and fell instantly asleep.

This morning I woke up feeling very rested, having slept an astonishing eight hours (astonishing for me!), and got a coffee in the breakfast room.  Despite having had a good night’s sleep, I woke up in a bad mood, thinking about what a terrible hotel it was for overbooking, and the dormitory room had no way to close the bathroom door because of not having a handle.

But during my prayer time, God gave me Colossians 3:1: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God,” (emphasis mine).  OK, thank You, Lord!  And I reset my mood from annoyed to grateful.  You know, I’m always happiest when I’m grateful.  I just need to remember to stay grateful.

The breakfast room filled up very fast, and Gerda, Katerina (one of our roommates), and Jillian (a friend I hadn’t expected to see here) all sat with me.  Katerina had been feeling ill last night, so I asked her if she was feeling better.  She had better color in her face this morning.  She shrugged and said, “Somewhat better.”  I told her that I would like to pray for her, and she said OK, but suggested that we wait until after breakfast.

After breakfast, Katerina was able to move into her single room, and in the meanwhile, I moved out of the dormitory room and left my suitcase at the front desk until my room would be ready.  I told them that I would move into my room during the lunch break.  Then I saw Katerina, and she invited me to her room to pray.  What I had thought would be a ten minute maximum prayer turned into a few hours, as I followed the leading of the Holy Spirit.  So I missed the morning session, but that was another reset.  I reset my schedule and priorities for the morning to do what God was leading me to do: pray for His daughter.

Katerina, three other friends who had just arrived, and I had lunch together in the hotel.  Then we went to change money and shop for things we had forgotten.  I needed toothpaste and mouthwash, having only packed the last bit of a larger tube.  That happens when you have one trip right after another.  I had neglected to check my supplies.  Then it was back to the hotel for a rest before the evening session.  And I found that Fifi had arrived.  I laid down and put my feet up as we caught up on each other’s travels and life.  Fifi’s travel schedule is pretty crazy, like mine, so we have a lot in common.

Halfway to the conference center (a fifteen minute walk from here), it began to rain—and not a little bit.  It rained buckets.  I had a small umbrella, which I shared with Fifi.  But we both wound up getting soaked anyway.  At the conference center I met many more friends—some that I had met in April when I had gone to Albania and Kosovo, and others that I had met years before, but had not seen since.  The evening session was worth getting wet for, and the walk back to the hotel was mercifully dry.

Then I did a dumb thing: I checked my email just before going to bed.  I got a message from my accountant, telling me that she needed some information that’s got to be turned in by June 30.  Of course, it’s information that I have back in Milan, but I won’t be back until the 29th.  Normally, I try not to let stuff like this bother me, but at about 3 AM, the bars must have let out, and a big bunch of people were congregated under our window, talking loudly.  I tried to roll over and sleep through it, but then the message from the accountant started to add its voice.  So I got up and took my Bible into the bathroom (so as not to disturb Fifi).  And I repeated to myself God’s earlier message to me: “Set your mind on things above.”

But after praying and giving the worry to God, I opened my Bible, which “randomly” came open at Isaiah 33, and I read:

Those who walk righteously and speak what is right, who reject gain from extortion and keep their hands from accepting bribes, who stop their ears against plots of murder and shut their eyes against contemplating evil—they are the ones who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress.  Their bread will be supplied, and water will not fail them.  Your eyes will see the king in his beauty and view a land that stretches afar.  In your thoughts you will ponder the former terror: “Where is that chief officer?  Where is the one who took the revenue?  Where is the officer in charge of the towers?”

Isaiah 33:15-18 (emphasis mine)

Needless to say, this was powerful reassurance (with a Rapture scenario included—“dwell on the heights”!).  So once again, I reset my mind from anxiety mode to rest.  God is good!

Leaving Kalisz

How in the world did a week go by so quickly?  It seems like we had just arrived, and then it was suddenly the last day of the feast.  The last worship session was marked as Poland, but involved each country’s worship group.  Throughout the week, our musical men (Giuseppe, Roberto, and Daniele) were asked to support other groups: Czech Republic, Germany, Russia, and England.  And they did.  Of all the people at the Feast of Tabernacles, the only ones who worked harder than our three guys were our hosts, who cooked, cleaned, set up the sound, and helped in a thousand different ways throughout the week, and at all hours.

During the last session, they were asked to help Czech Republic and Germany, and then Poland took the platform again.  I went to speak to the musical organizer because Italy hadn’t gotten an opportunity to do a last song.  He said, “Yes, but they got the chance to play.”  I said, “But only supporting, not as Italy.”  He told me it was too late.  I went back to where our group was sitting, I was too sad to even give them the bad news, only Felicity, who gave me a hug.  About a minute later, the musical organizer came up behind me and said, “OK, you have the chance to play one song.”  So we went onto the platform, to the astonishment of the Polish performers, who thought it was theirs for the rest of the hour.  They graciously stepped down and we did one last song.  After that we all took Communion together as the Polish team performed a quiet worship song.  Then we all sang together in joyful worship.

We had one last dinner together, and said our goodbyes.  It was so hard to say goodbye to everyone, hard to believe that the week was done.  We had a harrowing two-hour ride to the airport the next morning, at high speed on narrow two-lane roads most of the way, with big trucks, rain, and passing two or three cars at a time.  Each of us had a unique reaction to the drive:  Felicity was in the front seat, enjoying the speed.  I was in the back seat, thankful to know where I’m going if this is my time.  Bethany was next to me, hanging on for dear life, unwilling to glance toward the windshield, and praying in tongues.

The thing that has remained with me has been the very tangible presence of God.  This morning, having returned to Italy, I woke up at about 4 AM, and prayed for about three hours.  Yes, there is something so addictive (in a good way!) about the presence of God.  I love being in His presence so much that I just don’t want to leave.  So with God’s help I want to continue a practice of praying even more each day—three, four, or more hours.  God is good!

Worship in the Wee Hours

Team Italy’s first worship session was 2-4 AM on the first night of the Feast of Tabernacles.  Here is our team:

Giuseppe – Bass player and musical director of the worship team

Roberto – Drummer and Giuseppe’s very talented son

Daniele – Electric guitar player

Felicity – Acoustic guitar player and worship leader

Bethany – Chorus and intercessor

Me – Chorus and intercessor (and possible dancer), also team leader in things non-musical

Upon our arrival, one of the German teams was playing.  Not being a musician, I didn’t notice anything wrong until our bass player came to me and pointed out that there were no guitars, and three members of our team play guitar: electric, acoustic, and bass.  What to do?

I sent the drummer up as our first musician to take over while we figure the rest of it out.  He went up on the platform and behind the drum partition.  The German drummer refused to let him slide in and take over.  It was a surreal moment.  Meanwhile the rest of the team began pacing in various parts of the room, while the German team played some soft background music, just right for making the changeover.

Just then the techie arrived.  He told me that they don’t have any instruments to loan, which is not what I had been told.  He made a call, and found us an acoustic guitar, which we put into Daniele’s hands.  Giuseppe, clearly unhappy at first about not having an instrument to play, began to pray and worship from below the platform.  Soon his worship became truly joyful.

So with drums and guitar, we made music for the Lord.  Believe it or not, it was really nice, too!  We (the three females) did a lot of riffing, which turned out really nicely.  There were a couple of songs that Felicity launched into that were either not in the songbook or were too unfamiliar to me.  At those times, I stepped from the platform, grabbed an Italian flag, and started dancing.  By that time only team Italy was in the sanctuary, so that gave me a great deal of freedom.

Giuseppe stepped onto the platform and using Bethany’s microphone (the closest one at hand), prophesied that he now had a bigger vision than Italy, and that all this—even not having all our instruments—was a part of God’s plan.

At one point, Felicity had been riffing for a while in a very mellow mood, and I thought it might be too mellow for the hour.  So I stepped back up onto the platform, riffing the title of a lively song that she had planned for our first session, but perhaps had forgotten about.  She gave me a big grin, and launched right into it, which gave Roberto something to really sink his drumsticks into.

Before I knew it our replacements were in the room, dancing joyfully to our music and preparing to take the platform.  I don’t know how two hours passed so quickly.

On the way out of the church building, Giuseppe told me, “We need to get instruments somehow.”  Yes, somehow, we do need to get instruments.  But thank You, Lord, for this first session and what it taught each of us about the heart of worship.  The heart really is more important than the music, and we had plenty of heart.  God is good!

Austria’s Identity

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Hitler Balcony

Yesterday we went to the balcony where Hitler addressed Austria as the leader of Germany and the Nazis.  There we prayed and proclaimed that no more lies would come from that place, but only words of righteousness and truth.  I was standing by a very evil-looking sculpture that had a beak like a bird.  In Budapest one of the locals had given me a rubber bracelet that I have been wearing ever since.  I put the bracelet around its beak as a symbolic/prophetic act to shut the mouth of lies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI shut his lying mouth!

Next we went to the Austrian Parliament building, but we had no connections, so we were not able to get in past the lobby unless we entered as part of a tour group.  If we did that, then we would not be able to stop and pray, so we went outside the building and prayed from there.  Our hosts told us that there is no Christian in the Austrian Parliament at all—perhaps in name only.  It was a difficult place to pray from.  The Hitler balcony had been prayed over many, many times, but the Parliament had obviously been neglected in prayer.  It was the most difficult prayer session since that first evening in Vienna (see God is Doing a New Thing).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Austrian Parliament Building

After lunch we had our debriefing, and all of us had felt the same difficulty praying at the Parliament building.  I had 2 impressions about Austria.  The first one I noted in my blog yesterday (An Emotional Day), about how in prayer my emotions had been up and down and up again—but only in prayer.  And I noted, as on the first day (God is Doing a New Thing), that I believe Austria has a female identity—and may I add, that she seems hormonal.

My second impression about Austria is that it seems to me very strange that there was no indigenous Austrian who went to pray with us.  They did pray with us in the church, but not out in the city.  To my knowledge, this was the first time that only foreigners prayed in the capital.  However, I have not been on all the prayer trips, and I was told that it was also this way in Luxembourg. 

The thing is that Operation Capitals of Europe (OCE) does not come in to do our own thing.  Rather, we want very much to come alongside the indigenous believers to support them in what (we hope) they are already doing.  Otherwise nothing lasting will result from our prayers because we cannot possibly return and return and return to pray for their capital—there are something like 50 capitals in Europe (not all are recognized, like Cardiff, which comes under the UK, but is in fact the capital of Wales).  Anyway, we did our best, and the local believers did seem encouraged by our visit and our efforts.  Much remains to be done in Austria, but we did what we could to help things along. 

Last night the team said their goodbyes to the local church, and today we said our goodbyes to each other.  I have returned to Bratislava to meet with a missionary here, then I will go to Budapest tomorrow, and fly early Sunday morning back to Milan.  It has been an interesting time, and there is still so much to pray about.  If you would like to pray for us, here are a few prayer points:

  • One teammate was unable to come on either this trip or the last one (Sofia & Skopje) because of illness.  This is obviously a spiritual attack because she was healed of this illness, so it should not have returned.
  • Others might likewise be attacked in the area of their health, especially due to the exhausting nature of these trips (see below).
  • Several of us on the team are over 45, and these trips are physically, spiritually, and emotionally exhausting.  Because of exhaustion, tempers sometimes wear thin.  We need to give each other a lot of grace and compassion.
  • Team unity has been gravely threatened by rebelliousness.  Nevertheless, we were able to remain united and to stay focused.  I suspect that the enemy will continue to try this tactic to divide the team.

All in all, I feel like this has been a very good trip—a challenging trip, but very good.  God is good!

Our Last Night in Sofia

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With this prayer trip finished, some of our team flew back to their homes from Skopje, and some of us were flying back from Sofia.  The teammates that had driven up to Sofia from Greece drove back home again.  We hugged and said our goodbyes, most of us will see each other at the next prayer trip in April.

There is a lot of love and unity that develops when people pray together, and especially when they are praying for each other.  This time I was the recipient of a lot of prayers because of a spiritual attack masquerading as a migraine.  It came 2 days ago, the evening before our prayer walk in Skopje (see my previous post “Prayer Walking in Skopje”).  I suddenly had a very sharp pain just above my left eye and in the left side of my neck just where the spine meets the skull.  This was accompanied by nausea.  I went to the room, skipping dinner, and I prayed there through the evening session.  The next morning, I heard that another one of our team had also felt sick, as with labor pains.  Hers was a reaction to what Macedonia was experiencing in the spirit, while mine was a full-blown attack from the enemy.

I know that mine was an enemy attack because I have been attacked this way many times, and it is always just before I go on mission trips.  As I prayed, I was in such pain that I was really beyond words.  But I heard the Lord say to my spirit, “Relax and rest in Me.  Listen to My heartbeat.”  I tried, but much of that time I simply couldn’t hear His heartbeat.  Finally, after about 2-3 hours, I really can’t say exactly how long, I felt better, and I heard the Lord say, “It has loosened its grip on you.”  What He didn’t say was that it was gone.

The next night, after our prayer walking day we were again praying and worshiping.  One pastor there said that Macedonia suffers from a spirit of rejection, and that some of the people present also needed to be freed of a spirit of rejection.  He invited the people to come forward who needed prayers for rejection.  Then he looked at me and said, “Sister, your body language says that you are suffering from rejection.”  I had my arms folded across my chest.  He said, “Open up and receive the freedom that God wants to give you.”  So I opened my arms, and he prayed for me.  I suddenly began to cough very violently—it was like the cough came all the way up from the bottom of my abdomen, and I was bent double coughing.  He continued to pray and I continued to cough, then I fell to the floor (but I think someone caught me, I really can’t say).  Once on the floor, a deaconess from his church came and prayed for me.  As she laid her hand on my stomach I began to feel peace and the coughing stopped.

Then I heard the Lord say, “The demon has loosened its grip on you, now you need to loosen your grip on it.”  I did.  In my spirit I let it go and began to push it away.  I turned on my side and began coughing again, and then it was gone.  I turned onto my back again and the relief I felt was so great that I began to cry.  When I stood again, I returned to my chair feeling exhausted, but good.  Then I began to laugh.  And I just sat there, laughing and laughing.

Yesterday in the car on the way back to Sofia another attack came.  About an hour outside of Sofia we stopped for lunch, but I didn’t eat, feeling again nauseated.  They advised me to take authority, but in my weakened state, I didn’t feel like I could.  The group prayed for me, and took authority over the thing.  The headache and nausea passed, and by the time we were in Sofia, I was feeling much better.

As I was praying about it, the Lord told me that I need to take authority over the demons.  The authority is mine, but I need to take it.  He said, “When you enter a place, they should all flee in fear of you.”  Then the Holy Spirit reminded me of 2 Timothy 1:7: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline,” (emphasis mine).  And I heard Him say, “You shouldn’t be timid.  You need to be bold.”  And I understood the last words of that verse: “power, love, and self-discipline” as a triangle.  That power and self-discipline come from love.  It’s like love is the battery that gives power and self-discipline their strength.  As I tap into the love, I will find the power to take authority over the demons that they will recognize as His authority, and they will flee from me.

Likewise, by tapping into that perfect love, I will find the self-discipline not to simply ride-out the attack in prayer.  Prayer has worked in the past against these attacks, but now I need to exercise the self-discipline to take authority over the demons immediately.

So last night Angie and I stayed another night in Sofia.  She is flying back to Germany as I write, and I will fly back to Milan this evening.  For our last night in Sofia, Bill and Vasha and Anton took us to the Mall of Sofia, where we ate at the Happy Bar & Grill.  Happy features traditional Bulgarian food and sushi.  Bill suggested a dish called Happy Bits with corn and cream.  I also ordered a Bulgarian salad with the wonderful Bulgarian cheese on it.  Angie had sushi, but hadn’t ever tried mixing a bit of wasabi into the soy sauce.  I’m not sure that she liked the wasabi so much.  For me, it’s just not sushi without wasabi.

After dinner, Angie did some shopping for her family.  I had already gotten bears from Bulgaria and Macedonia, so I didn’t need to do any shopping.  I definitely want to come back to Bulgaria.  The work that the Lord is doing here is amazing, and I love the people here.  God is good!