Dancing in the Piazza!

We have been rehearsing the last few days to do a flash mob in the Parliament Square.  This was my 3rd flash mob.  The first was in Milan’s ritzy department store, La Rinascinte, singing Amazing Grace on Christmas Eve to shoppers there.

My 2nd was a flash mob of values on the steps of the Duomo Cathedral of Milan, in which at a signal we held signs naming various moral values.  Mine said coraggio (courage).  The press had been invited to that one!

This time we were all over the big central piazza and after an introduction we ran to the middle of the piazza and danced to Resurrection (link there—I’m in the back on the right, all in gray).  You can see a guy in green at the front who briefly dances with us.  We had good audience participation.  The wind was something I, personally, had prayed for because without wind, it would have been blistering hot—so thank You, Lord, for the wind to keep us cool!

Afterwards the dance team and others went to the main street, set up there, and danced some more.  It was a moment when I would like to have been able to be in 2 places at once.  But I stayed in the piazza with the evangelization team.  We hadn’t seen them very much at all since Rome, so I wanted to spend some time with them.  But that desire was really just a set up for a divine appointment.  In Rome Guy, the host and head of the evangelization team, had told us about prayer walking in Parliament Square at 3AM.  He had gone up to the door and knocked on it.  The guard who answered had tears in his eyes, and Guy asked if he could pray for him.  The guard had just a month earlier lost his daughter in a car accident and had been in that moment struggling to cope.  Guy prayed for him and shared the Good News of Jesus Christ with the guard.  The guard has remained Guy’s friend.

After the dancers left, Guy went to the same door and knocked.  He asked the guard inside to please tell Paul hello for him.  The guard said, “If you wait 10 minutes, Paul will be here, and you can tell him yourself.”  So we all got to meet Paul, and he invited us into the courtyard of the Parliament Building.  Paul told us that we can’t go inside, though.  Then after a few minutes, he took us into another courtyard that was even prettier.  Again he told us that we couldn’t go inside.  I got a chance there in the second courtyard to talk with Paul.  He is a very nice man, and his affection for Guy was obvious.

Then after telling us twice that we couldn’t go inside, Paul took us inside, where we saw lots of suits of armor and paintings of leaders going back to the 1500’s.  Before exiting, we all prayed for Paul.  He thanked us, wiping tears from his eyes.  It was a sweet and touching visit, and probably prophetic for whenever Operation Capitals of Europe comes to Malta—that we will be gratefully welcomed.

Then Guy treated us all to ice cream, and we said our good-byes (some of them are leaving today, and I’m leaving tomorrow).  God is good!

Tunisia, Italy, and the Dark Waters

Malta sits in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.  From this vantage point, we have been appointed to pray for the nations surrounding the Mediterranean.  I was drawn to pray for Tunisia, and was surprised to read on the prayer sheet that Tunisia had served as the launching point for taking Islam into Northern Africa.

While praying for Tunisia, specifically among other things that it would serve as a launching point for taking Christ into Northern Africa and beyond, into all the Islamic world.  Then as I prayed I looked at the floor map and noticed that Tunisia is shaped like a keyhole.  So I prayed for Tunisia to open the door to bring Christ into the Islamic world.

As I prayed more, I noticed also that Tunisia looks like the blade of a knife, cutting between Algeria and Libya.  So I prayed that Tunisia would cut, dividing Islamic Northern Africa, breaking the Islamic hold in that region of the world.

Then as I heard the worship music, I began to dance on the floor map of Tunisia.  In dancing, I finally felt that familiar shift in the spirit that tells me that my prayers have been heard.  And looking at Tunisia again, I noticed that from the southern point of Tunisia (the knife blade); it looks like a big crack running between Algeria and Libya.  Yes, a big crack!  Hallelujah!  Crack the hard nut of Islamic North Africa!

Our host, Dave, shared this morning the vision he had had of a lighthouse on Malta, but instead of a light bulb, there was a flame.  And as it shined, it sent sparks that set little fires blazing all around the Mediterranean.  I had a similar vision of a lighthouse, setting off sparks as it shined its light.  In both cases, we understood the vision to mean revival.

Malta is a strategic place, sitting as it does, in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.  Another vision that Dave had was of a great light entering the Mediterranean Sea at the Straits of Gibraltar, and crossing the sea (moving west), via the island stepping stones of Malta and Cyprus; finally arriving in Israel.  So again on the floor map we prayed and danced on the stepping stones: Gibraltar to Malta to Cyprus to Israel.

On a personal note, Dave shared a health concern about his newborn daughter.  He and Sharon (our hosts) were told that she has a rare disorder in which 2 facial nerves are missing, which makes her unable to nurse, show facial expression, or control her eyes.  Dave researched the condition and found that worldwide there are only about 3000 cases, none of which has ever been cured.  We prayed for little Bonnie, that God would do a creative miracle, putting the missing nerves in the place where they should be.  We also declared that this creative miracle would show the doctors who the Great Physician is, and turn their heart to the only One who can truly heal body, soul, and spirit.

As the night approached, I decided to go outside my comfort zone.  I signed up to do the first overnight shift of our 2 weeks of continuous prayer and worship in the MRPC (Mediterranean Regional Prayer Center).  I am not a night person, and when my pillow calls, I have a very hard time resisting its siren song.  But I had a cup of coffee at 10PM and went for it.  Since the last bus back to the house leaves at 10, I was committed at that point.

Three of us stayed all night: Karl, the team leader; Molly, and me.  A guitar player and a few local Maltese worshipers stayed for a while to help us get properly launched.  We started in joyous worship, singing, dancing, and playing tambourines and bongos.  Then we moved to more meditative worship and prayer.  The Maltese had mostly gone by midnight, but the guitar player, Herbie, stayed.  At 2AM we decided to go prayer walking.  We locked up the Prayer Center and headed into the cool, still night.  Lights twinkled off the water as we sought an open gate to the park overlooking the harbor.  All the gates were locked, so we walked around the park and down to the harbor.  On the way we passed a sleepy guard outside the Italian Embassy, and greeting him warmly.  Of course, he looked at us as if we were crazy.

At the harbor we found the gate to the passenger ferry open, so we went in to sit on the bench there and pray while looking at the black night water as it played with the full moon’s reflection.  The Transform teams from all the other countries had sent us prayer requests, so as Karl read each team’s prayer requests we took turns leading the prayer for them.  It made me feel a real partnership with each team as they seek to take the Good News of Jesus into each of their countries in a variety of ways: Bible giveaways, puppetry, dance, street evangelism, etc.

When he came to Italy, Karl gave me the task of leading prayer for my chosen home country.  The leader of this Italian team (there are 3 Italian teams in all) is a friend I’ve known and prayed for since practically the beginning of my time as a missionary in 2010.  Giuseppe does clowning as a way of sharing Jesus.  As I began to pray for him and his team, I could picture Giuseppe’s bright smile and imagine the laughter he brings with both his clown act and his message of real hope.

For those who are not intercessors or who have never tried praying for people in ministry, it can start out feeling like a burden, but soon becomes a pleasure, and a sweet burden.  The best part is when you get reports back of how God has answered your prayers on behalf of the person you’re praying for.  For me, praying for Giuseppe was the highlight of the night, although those prayers for the country of Tunisia were also pretty amazing.

Then as we finished up the requests for prayer, we decided to move on.  Herbie said good night to us there and made his way back to where he had parked his car.  We went to the top of a hill overlooking the harbor and watched a pilot boat and tug boat assist a big ferry through the harbor entrance and into port.  It was surprising the speed that the big ferry was moving as it entered the harbor.  The ferry made big waves that noisily splashed the rocks below us in a rhythm that reminded me of hands clapping.  Karl had taught us back in Rome about the power of rhythmic handclapping and drumming as a prayer tool (see Bingo Bango Bongo!).  I couldn’t stop smiling.

We continued our prayer walk into the center of Valletta and up to the Parliament Building.  As we passed in front of St. John’s cathedral, it chimed the half hour: 3:30AM.  The bell was very loud and startled us.  At the Parliament Building, I felt the urge to go put my hand on the door as we prayed.  I knew that there were probably security cameras trained on the door, but decided to go for it anyway.  I was not chased away, but almost as soon as I had returned to the others, a jeep drove up and let out a guard who entered the building through the door that I had just touched.  It was probably the night shift taking over.  They saw us, but took no particular notice, since we were just sitting on a bench.

As we passed in front of the cathedral again, it chimed the hour: 4AM.  Even though Karl warned us that it was coming, the loudness of the bell still startled us because it chimed exactly at the moment that we were passing in front of the bell tower.

When we returned to the Prayer Center Karl put on worship music.  He chose wonderful songs, but not very lively.  I grabbed a tambourine to keep myself awake, but found that my sleepy hands just couldn’t keep a rhythm.  So I switched to the bongos, which felt better for a while.  But while thumping them I felt myself slipping off into sleep.  Molly later commented about how I had drummed in my sleep.  Finally, I settled on an egg-shaker.  I stood on the map of Malta, singing and shaking.

Finally it was 6AM, and the buses would be starting soon.  Karl dismissed us, telling us that he would wait for the morning team and probably catch a nap upstairs when they arrived to take over.

On the way home, my sleep-deprived brain was terrified of missing our stop, so when I saw an area that looked familiar I ringed and we got off—probably 5 stops too soon.  Molly was a very good sport about it.  We both knew that the enemy would try to use that mistake to set us against each other, so we remained determined to stay united in love—and really, Molly gets all the credit for that, since it was my mistake.

God is good!  Even when we blunder and cause problems for each other, God is always good!

Kings and Castles and UFO’s

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Slovakian Parliament Building

Yesterday we all met at the Slovakian Parliament building.  There are 2 Members of Parliament that are born again, and another 8 who are Christians, but perhaps unsure about the whole “born again” thing.  We met with 1 of the born again MPs, Boris.  He seemed very discouraged and hopeless.  I think he feels very alone.  Boris started a prayer meeting with the other Christian MPs, and he said that usually only 4 show up.  He said that the meeting lasts about 30 minutes.  The meeting starts by Boris reading a Bible verse about righteousness, they meditate on it for about 5 minutes, then they pray about it together.

Whenever there is an important vote, Boris calls a prayer breakfast for his supporters who are believers, and they pray together about the issue.  However, we were told later that he’s not very organized about getting the word out, so the prayer breakfasts are only about 10 people.  In reality, Boris has many more supporters who would come and pray if they knew about the prayer breakfast.  So we prayed for Boris and for the Slovakian Parliament.  It was powerful.  At one point I felt very strongly the urge to kneel as I prayed.  When I opened my eyes, everyone around me was also on their knees, including Boris and his translator.

After lunch we took a trip out to Devin Castle.  At the foot of the castle was a monument to the victims of Communist terror.  This was where the iron curtain separated east from west, at the Danube River.  From that spot in Slovakia, you could see Czech Republic, Hungary, and Austria.  There more than 400 people were killed trying to escape Communism.  A few members of the team said that they couldn’t pray there because it felt so heavy.  So before praying we decided to do a prophetic act and worship.  So we marched through the gateway of the memorial singing a worship song.  Then we went to the riverside and poured wine and salt into the water (another prophetic act).  Then we sang more worship songs.  The songs started out weak, but became strong.  Then someone noticed that a couple of snakes swam across the water and the frogs began singing louder.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABullet-riddled monument to the victims of Communist terror

Then we climbed up to the castle.  Up there we heard a strange buzzing noise.  I laughed and said that it was a UFO.  Well it was unidentified and it was a flying object.  It was a photographic drone, which after the place of so many Communist murders gave me the creeps.  There was a big team up there, taking pictures with equally sophisticated equipment.

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It was a good day, with wonderful prayers and lots of hugs goodbye.  Today we travel to Vienna.  A couple of teammates are going by riverboat in order to pray and worship on the river.  God is good!

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Blessed in Budapest

Yesterday was our second and last day in Budapest.  In the morning we met in the Jewish Ghetto and did a prayer walk with Esther from Jews for Jesus.  Although the Jews of Budapest were only confined to the ghetto for a month, it was such a difficult time, being winter, that there was no heat and little or nothing to eat.  Many people died during that month, and Esther’s grandmother was one of them.

But then she took us to the Carl Lutz memorial.  Carl Lutz was a Swiss man who saved thousands of Jewish children during the war, and Esther’s mother was of them.  It makes the Holocaust so much more tragic and real when you meet someone so personally impacted by the war.

sculptureCarl Lutz memorial

After lunch we walked out to the middle of the Crown Bridge.  Just last year they had added a couple of obelisks and crown statues to the bridge.  Obelisks are ancient Egyptian symbols, which have to do with the worship of the sun.  Nevertheless, obelisks are found in many churches, especially in Europe.  Obelisks are also a common architectural theme in Freemasonry.  The Masons claim to be a Christian organization and point to their good work in building the Shriners Childrens Hospitals, and riding around in funny little cars in parades wearing fezes, but even a casual glance at the rites reveals the satanic roots of Freemasonry.  The Hungarian crown has a crooked cross on top, which I think is revealing, too.  So we prayed there in the middle of the bridge, looking across the Danube at the Parliament building that we had visited the day before.

Crown Bridge crown sculptureCrown statue on the Crown Bridge

One more destination was the castle and church atop the highest hill in Budapest.  From that vantage point high on the ramparts, we prayed for Budapest and proclaimed her future and her people for Jesus.  Those of us from other countries then prayed for the Hungarians who had come to pray with us, blessings them.

Budapest Castle rampartsCastle ramparts high above the city of Budapest

Finally we returned to the Scottish Mission Church to worship God and have a final evening of prayer together.  It was a really sweet time together, and when the Hungarians surrounded us to pray for us, the Holy Spirit fell upon all of us and we laughed in the sweet joy of the Lord.  So we ended our time together worshiping, praying, blessing, and laughing.  It was wonderful!  God is good!

And today was a travel day back to Bratislava followed by relaxing, each in their own way (taking a run, shopping, sleeping, writing a blog post—guess who!).

Scottish church restroom signRestroom sign at the Scottish Mission Church

Building a New Foundation

Greetings from Budapest!

We arrived yesterday just after noon by train from Bratislava.  The difference in atmosphere between these 2 cities is like night and day.  Bratislava’s sweetness is nowhere to be found in Budapest, which is a hardened city.  One teammate said that she felt a Nazi-like spirit here.  This was confirmed when the local pastor told us that Hungary had made laws against the Jews 3 times.

Nevertheless there is a thriving Jewish community, which we will be visiting today.  I had been to the Jewish Cultural Center in Budapest 2 years ago during my Faith Trip (see my book, Look, Listen, Love).  Today we are going to the Jewish Museum, which is near the JCC.  Since Budapest was the starting point for my Faith Trip 2 years ago, all this feels very much like a reunion—and even more so because it was also here in Budapest that I met the head of Operation Capitals of Europe (oceprayer.com), and 2 of our teammates.  I met 2 other teammates in Kalisz, Poland at the Feast of Tabernacles.  None of these 4 had ever come on another prayer trip.  All of this helps lighten the heavy Budapest spirit, and perhaps that was what God had in mind.

Scottish mission church in BudapestScottish Mission Church in Budapest

Yesterday afternoon after worshiping and praying together, we had an appointment in the Parliament building with an MP.  He talked to us about some of the history of Hungary, and answered our questions.  Then we had a time of prayer with him and for him.  Afterwards he showed us around the building, and into one of the parliamentary chambers.  We only had a brief time there, so instead of prayers, we made brief declarations about godly decision-making in that place.

The Parliament building is enormous because when it was built Hungary was much larger.  The MP told us that Hungary had once had 66 counties, and now it only has 16.  Slovakia was once part of Hungary.  The symbol for Hungary once was a 2-headed eagle, which speaks of division—and indeed, division came.

Hungarian crownHungarian Crown in Parliament

Budapest is currently building a new subway line near the Parliament building.  Because of the work underground, the streets all around the Parliament building are dug up, exposing as it were the building’s foundation.  Interesting that we should visit it just at the time that its foundation is exposed.  So we made declarations and proclamations that all evil laws and corruption be pulled-up by the roots and replaced by seeds of righteousness.

We heard one of the local believers tell about a prayer initiative that God had given him called Seven Towers.  They have set 7 places, 1 in each district of Budapest, as prayer towers.  Each week there is a 24 hour prayer vigil in one of the towers.  We recognized this as an important work in restoring Budapest to the Kingdom of God.

Weeping willow memorial sculptureWeeping Willow Memorial to Holocaust Victims

So the Hungarian government will be rebuilt on a foundation of righteousness and restored to the Kingdom of God.  And we will see the oppressive spirits and Nazi-like influence scatter and vanish as Jesus takes His rightful throne as Lord and King of Hungary here in Budapest.  God is good!

God’s Favorite Kid

I have a friend that I often joke with, saying, “I’m God’s favorite kid.”  And the banter goes like this:

I’m God’s favorite kid because I’m the most blessed!

Oh, no you’re not!  I’m His favorite because I’m more blessed!

To which I reply: “No, I’m more blessed because He gave me you for a friend!”

And she replies: “You’re right, you are more blessed than me!”

Today was one of those days when I truly feel like I’m God’s favorite.  Of course, He doesn’t have favorites, but today it just felt that way.

After breakfast we met at the church and took a bus up the mountain to pray for Sofia from up there.  About 70 people from the local church joined us.  The participation of local people in these prayers for the capital cities is significant.

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The mountain was covered with snow and there were people skiing and sledding all over the mountain top.  Nevertheless, it was sunny and much warmer on the mountain than back in Sofia.  So from our perch overlooking the city we prayed, proclaimed, and worshiped Jesus, the Lord of Sofia.  And we sealed the prayers with Holy Communion.

When we returned to Sofia we went to the Parliament building to pray for the new government, whoever they turn out to be (as you may recall, the government all resigned three days ago when our team arrived in town).  A policeman came to see what we were doing, and when we explained that we were praying for the government, he shrugged and walked off.  Several minutes later another policeman approached.  Two of our group walked over to meet him so that prayers could continue uninterrupted.  One of them, a pastor, explained what we were doing and asked the policeman if he could pray for him.  The policeman shrugged, but didn’t say no, so my pastor friend and the other man prayed for him.  The policeman remained skeptical.  He probably thought that we were crazy, but harmless, so he walked off.

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Next to Parliament is the university, so we went to pray there.  Our host, Bill, had given some of us Bulgarian New Testaments, so one girl decided to do an important prophetic act and bury the Word of God right there on campus.  The only problem is that we didn’t have a shovel or any other kind of digging implements.  So we had to find ground soft enough to dig up with a stick.  The rest of us laughed about how silly this looked, and cracked jokes about how the Christian bookstores should sell shovels, too.  But once it was buried, we got back to the work of praying, and one topic for prayer at the university was abortion.  Bulgaria has 3 abortions for every live birth—imagine that!  Together with the 3rd highest suicide rate in the world, no wonder the population is shrinking.

After all this, some of us were very hungry, having not had any lunch—me included.  There was a lot of discussion about where to eat, when to eat, and whether to eat together.  In the end, some went back to the hostel, while others went to eat.  Bill offered to take me to a big toy store.  I had told him that I always get my grandson a bear from every new country I visit, but I hadn’t had any luck finding a suitable bear in Bulgaria yet.  All the bears I had seen so far had scary eyes.  I can’t give my grandson a bear with scary eyes!  So we went to the toy store, and I found a great bear right away.

Then Bill asked me what I wanted to do next.  I told him that I hadn’t had lunch, so I wanted some dinner.  He was very pleased when I said that I wanted to have some typical Bulgarian food.  So he called Vasha, his wife, and they discussed where to take me.  She was just getting off work, so she would be joining us.  They took me to a place that was typically Bulgarian in décor, in food, and in music—wonderful!

They asked me a few times what I was hungry for, but I just insisted on typical foods.  Bill was so happy for the opportunity to share some of his favorite dishes from childhood.  He insisted on getting a few dishes to share, knowing that it would be far more food than we could possibly eat.  Vasha told me that later I would probably see people dancing the Horo.  Which I did!  There was a birthday party across the room, and when the band played the Horo music, the women all got up, laced arms, and danced in a circle.

Bill kept asking me what I was smiling about.  I just said, “I’m so happy!”  Today, I’m convinced: I’m God’s favorite!  God is good!

Contrarian Kingdom Part Two

Greetings from Cardiff!

Yesterday we went to the Senate building to pray for the Welsh Parliament.  The building is right at the docks, which historically have economic importance for Wales, being the place where so much Welsh coal was shipped to the rest of the world.  The demand for coal declined and the docks became a derelict area.  In 2005 the docks area underwent a transformation.  And now it’s a great place for people to meet and have a meal.  For our purposes, it was a great place to come and pray for revival in Wales—specifically, for a revival that will dwarf the previous revivals that started here.

In this beautiful setting in the capital of Wales, I found that for some reason I was having some trouble focusing and praying—the reason I’m here.  So in desperation, with my mind wandering this morning I finally said, “Lord, please tell me what to pray!” Sometimes desperation leads to wonderful contrarian things:

  • I want to be brilliant—a genius—at faith, even if people think I’m stupid about other things.  
  • I want wisdom to live out that faith.  
  • I want and need discernment of the schemes of the enemy.

All my life, the thing that was guaranteed to anger me was to be called stupid or treated like I’m stupid.  And there have been plenty of people who have thought me stupid.  When I lived in California as a child, the other children teased me and called me stupid because of my Texas accent.  In New York as an adult, people occasionally mimicked me because my accent made me sound stupid to them.  Their logic being that you might be a stupid redneck because you sound like Jeff Foxworthy.  In Italy, people sometimes mistake my slow speech (Texas drawl in Italian) for a slow mind, and try to take advantage of me.  So for me to pray for a faith so smart that people think I’m stupid is inspired by God because I would never ask to be taken for stupid.  But God’s wisdom turns the wisdom of the world on its head.  And one thing I am ready to embrace above all others is God’s wisdom.

Recently I wrote a blog post about God’s contrarian logic:  https://europeanfaithmissions.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/contrarian-kingdom/.  And in true contrarian, non-conformist fashion, I love the idea of asking for something that in my flesh I never wanted.  But there it is:  I want a faith so big that people in their flesh think I’m stupid.  It’s turning the world’s logic on its head.

Come on, people of God!  Let’s live a life that’s absolutely contrary to the world’s way!