Worshiping in Prime Time

We gathered for prayer half an hour before our prime time worship: 8-10 PM, but had some trouble finding a place to pray in peace.  The church’s prayer rooms had been taken over by nursing mothers with their babies and small children.  They needed a quiet corner, too.  I understand.  So we went to the sanctuary to look for a quiet place there.  But being prime time, there were people all over the place, in every little corner, even in the coat room.

Then Giuseppe suggested the music storage room.  It’s small and crowded with instruments, but it’s just big enough and quiet enough to do the trick.  So we crammed in there and prayed together that our worship would truly glorify God, and that we ourselves would stay humble and submitted to Him.  Amen.  And we got briefly drunk in the Holy Spirit, laughing like idiots.

Then Giuseppe looked around.  There’s a problem.  Where is the bass guitar?  It wasn’t there!  Then we discovered that the electric guitar was also missing.  We did eventually manage to find a bass guitar, and just did without the electric guitar.

Giuseppe, as musical director, had Daniele take the acoustic guitar, and Felicity concentrate on singing.  Her voice is very sweet, but sometimes it’s a bit tentative and often hard to hear.  Perhaps it was because she didn’t have a guitar in her hands that her voice was stronger, and being stronger, it was lovely and lost none of its sweetness.

As worship leader, Felicity made no song list this time, deciding just to wing it and see what songs the Holy Spirit leads us to do.  This led to long pauses between songs, and songs that repeated and repeated and repeated.  I don’t know how the musicians felt, but it was sort of driving me crazy.  It had the same effect on Bethany, who tried suggesting songs when we seemed to be stuck for a direction.  But when a direction was found, it was wonderful.

During one of the livelier songs, I pulled out a couple of whistles and handed one to a boy that was dancing near us, while I blew the other.  He was hesitant at first, but then blew the whistle with great gusto.  A big fellow seated in the front, right in front of me, got up during a lively song and started to dance just like Dancing Bear on Captain Kangaroo (for those old enough to remember).  Then he grabbed a tambourine and started keeping time with the music.  Several young girls picked up flags and started dancing and waving flags.  I love it when we share a moment like that.  It was such fun!

There was a definite anointing, which everybody felt.  That made the two hours fly by before we even knew it.  When the next group came in and started to set up, I felt such deep disappointment at having to stop that I didn’t even want to go back to the hotel to sleep.  The big fellow hugged me and thanked me for the worship session.  All thanks and glory and praise goes to God!  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!

A Clanging Cowbell

This last birthday the best present I got was from God: He gave me my singing voice.  I’m not saying that I sing like Maria Callas or Judy Collins.  I’m not even sure that I can sing on key, but now I have the courage and freedom to sing—into a microphone!—without fear, and that’s a miracle.  You can read about it in my latest book, “Laughing in My Dreams,” available through Lulu.com (http://www.lulu.com/shop/alisa-k-brown/laughing-in-my-dreams/paperback/product-20585131.html).

This was at the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) in Kalisz, Poland, where the local church celebrates in praise and worship 24 hours a day over 7 days.  This past fall was my second time there, and for the second time, I was the lone representative of Italy—me, a foreign resident, representing Italy.  But I did my best to represent Italy, bringing my Italian flag and singing as strongly as possible whenever I heard a song I know in Italian.

Upon returning home after my first time at Tabernacles I talked to a few local pastors and worship leaders about taking a team to represent Italy.  The response was underwhelming, very discouraging.  And after God gave me back the freedom to sing, I thought perhaps I would get a guitar and see if I could learn enough to represent Italy in worship from the platform.  Interestingly enough, the first person I mentioned this to said that she had told her son just that morning that he should give me his guitar, since he no longer has time or the inclination to play.  I have a guitar now—one that I’m too intimidated to even try to tune (not that I remember how to tune a guitar!).

While I was in the US for Christmas break I went to a music shop and bought a tambourine and a cowbell.  My sons laughed at me for buying a cowbell, but I love the sound of cowbells.  And I love the idea of keeping time with a cowbell instead of clapping hands.  Plus, it’s small and easy to travel with, which is a definite plus in my traveling lifestyle.

It is the best cowbell ever--it says so right on the sticker!

It is the best cowbell ever–it says so right on the sticker!

When I returned to Italy, I mentioned once again (this time to Pastor Fabio) that I would like to bring an Italian worship group to Poland for Tabernacles.  Unlike his reaction last year, this time he was very enthusiastic about the idea.  I am hoping that everything works out, and that I can bring the worship group from the Biella church.  But even if they don’t come, I will be there with my Italian flag, my cowbell, and my tambourine, representing Italy the best that I can.

Wafers that Doug & Jane (Blessing We Are Blessed) brought me--Kalisz is famous for them!

Wafers that Doug & Jane (Blessing We Are Blessed) brought me–Kalisz is famous for them!