After only 3 hours, both Molly and I wanted to get back to the Prayer Center. It wasn’t a lot of sleep, but both of us got 3 very good hours of sleep. I love that we got to be the ones to launch the 24/7 prayer. It was out of my comfort zone, but so worth it! In fact, every time that I have stepped out of my comfort zone in response to God’s call, I have enjoyed it and been blessed.
And speaking of being called out of my comfort zone, God has encouraged me to speak to people here in Malta—strangers! Those who know me might be surprised, but I’m really quite shy, especially when it comes to talking to strangers. My mom is really good at striking up a conversation with a stranger, and seems to be able to do it anytime and anywhere, with grace and freedom. I have not enjoyed such ability or success whenever I have tried. But, since it is God that is calling me out of my comfort zone, I will do it, and will enjoy it and will be blessed.
In obedience, I have started to greet everyone I see on the street (except the ones that are talking on their phones). Most people have responded in a friendly way. In Texas I used to greet everyone on the street, even strangers. But in Milan and in the northeastern US, I have gotten such odd and sometimes hostile reactions that I stopped doing it. I spoke to the man next to me on the bus this morning, but found that his accent and the background noise made it really hard to understand him. Although he didn’t seem to be quite awake, he responded in a friendly way. When we got to the end of the line, he wished me a nice day.
Yesterday we had more prayer requests from the other Transform teams, and had a prayer meeting with local believers. One couple came with their 10 year old son, but soon after worship started, they suddenly left. I don’t know if they were offended by the freedom of our worship or if they had some unrelated issue. It definitely was not our intent to offend anyone. Malta is even more religiously Catholic than Italy—celebrating saint days with colored lights and garlands and fireworks and parades of statues in the streets. The Renewal Movement (Charismatic Catholicism) has begun here, but it is not the majority by any means. Most Catholics here, as in Italy, are nominal, ritualistically religious, or superstitiously religious. True faith is rare here in Malta. But it won’t stay that way.
Another issue for the Maltese is refugee boat people from Africa. Most of the boat people drown before making land, but such is the desperation of these people that they just keep coming. The same current that caused the Apostle Paul’s boat to shipwreck on Malta brings the African boats to these shores instead of to Italy (though many do land in Italy). The European Union has told Malta that they must keep the boat people, so the population of the island has changed dramatically. Many Maltese resent the presence of the Africans, feeling that their island has been invaded, their jobs taken, and their economy drained. The fact is that the European Union financially helps Malta, though I don’t know how much. Refugees are put into detention centers for a year while their backgrounds are checked. As you can imagine, this is not a quick process, working in cooperation with various African governments that do not want to have these people returned to be a drain on their own struggling economies. Then the refugees are released to find work that nobody else wants to do because of low pay or the danger involved.
Molly, who is a black African, discovered firsthand the anger and resentment of the Maltese for the African refugees. She was walking with 2 other girls from our team, and they spoke to people in the park. They asked one older man if they could pray for him. An ugly look came over his face and he pointed his finger at Molly, shouting: “Pray about them!”
The unexpected venom of his anger startled and hurt Molly. But later as she told us about the incident, Molly prayed for the man, forgiving him and releasing him to God’s love. While walking with Molly, I saw another older man who scowled at Molly. I turned to her and said, “Molly, I’m so sorry for the way that man spoke to you!” How terrible to be hated so much just because of the color of your skin! The man had no idea what a sweet person Molly is, or that she had come for the specific purpose of praying for his country.
Jesus is the chain-breaker, and He will break every chain and proclaim freedom to the captives. Yes, Lord! Break every chain! God is good!