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!

The Prophecy Fulfilled At Last!

Waaaaaaaaay back in 1976, I received a prophecy at a prayer meeting.  Someone was kind enough to write it all down for me, which means that it must have been recorded.  In those days that means that it was probably recorded on a cassette recorder, possibly even a big reel-to-reel tape recorder, and typed on a manual typewriter.  Young people, what this means is that a lot of time and effort went into writing the prophecy for me.  I don’t remember who spoke the prophecy, but it really doesn’t matter, that person was just the instrument God used that evening, and also the person who wrote it out for me.

The prophecy is on 3 yellowed and stained pieces of paper.  There are typographical errors and ellipses to indicate where the person writing could not hear parts of the prophecy.  The paper has been folded in half and has moved with me every time that I have moved since 1976, which is 10 times.  Most of those moves are long distance (more than 500 miles), and include 3 international moves.  It is astonishing that the paper was never lost or destroyed, especially considering that I didn’t take any special care of it.

Most astonishing of all is that for most of the 1980’s I was very far from God, even considering myself an atheist for 8 years.  The prophecy hadn’t made sense to me at the time I received it, so I probably would have thrown it out  if I had come across those papers during that time.  [How God reclaimed me is a very cool story, but too long for right here.  Stay tuned, I’ll try to get to it in a day or so.]

Over the years I have come across the prophecy, sometimes I’ve searched for it.  I have read and re-read it many times, but I never, never understood it until just recently.

Part of the difficulty in understanding the prophecy was the language.  The prophet spoke in King-James-ish English.  I don’t personally have trouble with King James English.  Having grown up Episcopalian, my early church experience was all King James.  My first reading of the Bible was the King James Version.  But for some reason, the prophecy was too difficult to understand.  During my believing years I had kept it, always feeling that it was somehow important, though I didn’t understand it.  The last time I read it was about 2 years ago.  I had brought it to Milan with me.  But I still didn’t understand it.  It makes me think of Habakkuk 2:2, which says: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.  For the revelation awaits an appointed time.”  I think that I didn’t understand the prophecy before the appointed time.

What it says (in part) is:

There is a truth, says the Lord, that I am leading you in; that you should be one of My true mercy, that you should be one of greater mercy, which is My love in action.  My mercy, My kindness, My tenderness upon the lives of others.  For I will send you in as a great Christian spring in a time when many are dry.  For now there shall be those of your own kindred that you should be witnessing to, that you should be speaking to and shall refresh them so that they shall receive greater, greater than that which even I promised. . . (emphasis mine).

Now I understand that this was speaking of this ministry of encouraging missionaries—decades before it started!  On Thursday night I returned home to Milan from a prayer trip to Sofia and Skopje (see my posts of the previous couple of weeks).  Yesterday the pastor from Skopje sent me a message saying (in part): “What a blessings you where in Skopje, Macedonia.  Thank you sooo much for being like fresh water in the desert,” (emphasis mine).  Wow!  This is when the encourager gets encouraged!

I had always taken “those of your own kindred” to be literal relatives, but now I realize that the prophecy speaks of brothers and sisters in Christ.  I’ve always felt called to help Christians understand and begin to really live in their calling.  That is the “truth” spoken of in the first line of the prophecy.

Another part of the prophecy says:

You will find Me in praise, as many of My people find Me in praise, for I will direct praises even now, even henceforth, that they may be praises from your hearts.  My praises, that have seemingly been by sacrifice in the past, but now shall be very real; for now I shall be pleased with you in obedience in My Word that you praise and enact truth in affixing your eyes upon Christ Jesus. . .

The “sacrificial” praise was something that wasn’t in the past when this was written, but in the future.  Now it’s in the past—how I praised God with all my heart even while I was going through the worst depression of my life in the summer of my divorce [more about that another time].

There is also a part that I believe speaks of the future.  I will not include it here.  As Daniel wrote: “The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future,” (Daniel 8:26).

I have spent some time today looking for the actual papers, and I can’t find them.  But I know that I will find them when the future part becomes important.  What I did find was €230!  Provision and grace are always working in my favor because I don’t limit God.  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!

Road Trip!

Traditional Bulgarian appetizer plate

Traditional Bulgarian appetizer plate

After church this morning we had lunch at a Chinese restaurant owned by a man from the church.  The food was really good, some of the best I’ve ever had.  I joked with Bill and Vasha about it being traditional Bulgarian Chinese food.

Then after lunch we divided the team up into 3 cars and headed for Macedonia.  On the road we told each other true stories of our lives: funny stories and stories of God’s amazing faithfulness and provision.  One story led to another, with each of us encouraging the others by our personal accounts of God’s help.  In this way, the miles flew by and friendships grew stronger.

We arrived in Skopje in a rainstorm.  The hostel had misbooked the rooms, and I noticed that the people who had ridden in the other cars were irritable and unhappy about it.  With some arranging and rearranging, the rooms were eventually worked out.  One person said that the irritability could be a spiritual thing about Skopje.  Maybe, but if so, then the conversation in our car was the vaccination against irritability.

Leann is a girl who likes to eat real food—as opposed to sandwiches or crackers for dinner.  I agree.  So the two of us went out in search of a real meal, although I wasn’t so hungry.  We had gone out like this before, in Warsaw and again in Prague, and had developed a special bond because of it.  We found a restaurant at the end of the block, but they said that their credit card machine wasn’t working.  The cash machine around the corner solved our lack-of-Dinar problem, and we returned to the restaurant.  Leann had gnocchi in cream sauce and I had a lovely chicken soup.

During these trips we spend so much time with the whole group that it’s nice to get off in a pair like this and have a real conversation.  When we got back to the hostel we met the local coordinator, Keith.  I know more or less what to expect, having been on several trips with OCE, but since each capital city is unique, there is always something different.  We’ll see what Skopje is all about in the next couple of days.  God is good!

The Light Shines in the Darkness

I have written a few stories of actual people who have been trafficked (in both “Look, Listen, Love” and “Laughing in My Dreams”).  Those were people that my friend, Clara, the pastor’s wife in Romania told me about.  Buck and Nadia work with women in prostitution, and they have been telling me about the women they know.

The first time the issue of human trafficking came to their attention was in the small town three hours from Sofia, where they were pastoring a church.  The head of the children’s program at their church came to them with the desire to tell her story.  She had gone with a friend to Macedonia because of the promise of a job, and their documents were confiscated and they were told that they would be prostitutes.  She was a virgin and lost her virginity to a stranger in his car.  Her friend ran away, but was caught, and as the other girls watched, they broke both her legs.  Amazingly, the girl did eventually manage to get away, but now, years later, she still struggles with her past.

They said that they tried not to look shocked, but they were.  They had never heard of such a thing.  But little by little they became aware of the magnitude of the problem.  Often, even if the girl manages to get away, the police are reluctant to do anything about the trafficking.  The police and local officials are often involved either financially or as non-paying customers.  And the girls are mostly foreign and without legal identity documents—they are essentially non-persons.  So even non-corrupt police would rather ignore their complaints than get into the massive legal hassles required to help undocumented persons.

When they began working with prostitutes these stories of trafficking became more and more common.  One girl told how she had been living with her grandmother and helping her, but she needed to return to her own home about an hour away.  She ran into an old friend who invited her to have coffee.  Over coffee she told him that she needed to go back to their town, and he offered her a ride.  On the way they stopped at a coffee shop, and she didn’t think anything unusual about it except that her brought her a soda that was already opened.  Back on the road, she began to feel strange and physically paralyzed.  He had slipped her the date rape drug.  They went to her house, got her identity card, and he took her to Macedonia.  Because of the relaxed borders of the European Union, all he had to do was show both their identity cards to the border guard.  Then she saw him receive money for her, and she was put into a brothel and told that this would be her work from now on.  She became pregnant in the line of her work and was severely beaten for refusing to have an abortion.  Somehow she got away and into a halfway house for girls coming out of prostitution.  She said that whenever she looks at her baby, she tries not to remember how he was conceived.

The stories go on and on about husbands who send their wives out to work as prostitutes, and husbands who don’t like for their wives to work as prostitutes, but tolerate it because they like the money.  Many of the girls cope by pretending that they are a different person when they are working, and trying not to be present in their bodies during the act.  But these are only temporary and imperfect fixes.  There is nothing in the world like becoming a truly new creation in Christ Jesus.

No matter where you live, there is human trafficking going on in your country, and probably in your state, and possibly in your own town.  Check out the slavery map: http://www.slaverymap.org/.

God is good.  God is love.  Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s love for humankind.  Love cannot allow this evil and injustice to continue against approximately 30 million people worldwide.  Love demands a response.  What are you going to do about it?