Sunday, August 14, 2011

Do the Work...

... of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry." 2 Timothy 4:5

Dark has fallen hard on this last night we will spend in Africa. Once again I find myself under the false security of the mosquito net that encapsulates my bed. I may be protected from the flying blood suckers outside, but as it takes a full five minutes to straighten and arrange the flimsy curtain, I surely trapped at least a dozen or more inside with me. My legs are a witness to my exposure!

I crossed an ocean, battled porters, resettled into a new hotel, had our last day of conferences AND preached a sermon this morning to the English speaking congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church here in Dar es Salaam since our last report. All I could think of as I lay my head on the pillow (well other than trying to swat the beasts that were besetting me) was "I am SPENT!"

I remembered Paul's note to Timothy where he said, "I am already being poured out like a drink offering, AND THE TIME HAS COME FOR MY DEPARTURE." 2 Timothy 4:6

I'm preparing for another departure:
We are homeward bound tomorrow at 1:00 pm CST.

I have fought another good fight on foreign soil.
We have held two Women's Leadership Conferences, a Training Seminar for Sunday School teachers and evangelists and concluded today with a "short-notice" sermon when the youth leader scheduled fell ill.

I have finished the race:
Over 200 women and men were discipled and encouraged, strengthened and motivated in their Christian walk.

I have kept the faith:
In spite of dwindling resources, inadequate funding, little budget input, no information about where we would stay - we came. We believed we were called according to God's plan and purpose and He would make a way.

He certainly did!


Spent, spilled out, but smiling
In His service
Charlynn in dark Dar

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Titus for Terrorists

Our last conference in Zanzibar was with a group of evangelists and Sunday School teachers. We were blessed to speak freely without shouting over the noisy neighbors' loudspeakers.

The "Goliath" (the incessant sound emanating from the mosque) we slew the previous day was still silent. We spent our time sharing effective techniques for reaching children with the Good News.

The attendees were eager to learn and engaging. After each session they asked questions without hesitation. They openly shared their frustrations in the classrooms and the real problem of persecution.

"These are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone put you down." Titus 2:15

I'm thankful for Paul's instruction to Titus; the scriptures served me well during the meeting. This short letter from the apostle Paul gives instructions to a leader in the hostile territory of Crete. Paul explains why he left Titus behind on the island nation he described as being filled with "liars, evil brutes and lazy gluttons." (Titus 1:12)

When they started sharing how in their houses, if they are singing or they have Christian music on; even if they meet together for a meal, their neighbors accuse them of having a church and they are promptly evicted even though their rent is paid for the entire year. In the government operated school system, the religion of Islam as well as the Arabic language is mandatory teaching. Their houses, places of business, schools and churches are often targeted for destruction and vandalism. Their jobs (if they can find one) are at risk if anyone accuses them of spreading their beliefs.

If not for Titus, I would have felt woefully inadequate to address such issues but Paul says, "Let no one put you down." What matters in this situation is I know GOD knows how to address the issues. I know God is faithful in ALL situations. I know God cares deeply for ALL His childrens sufferings. I know God brought us to Zanzibar "for such a time as this."

This island and its inhabitants are no better or worse than Crete and its Creatians. The believers are there not just to find employment in the tourist industry, but to take back enemy territory! The are modern day Titus' that will conquer the terrorism of Islam. I asked the participants if their house or their job was worth the eternal salvation of their neighbor? I reminded them of the war zone they are in for the spiritual freedom and lives of their nation.

After the meeting we spent time with the five women's leaders who organized the conference. They humbly thanked us for bringing the women from across the island together. With tears in their eyes they expressed their gratitude for the money we brought that paid for the transportation, the meals, and the tea times. "We would never have been able to have this kind of meeting where women can be encouraged and trained for Christian life and work. We have no way to raise this kind of money." They were moved to hear of the prayers around the world being said on their behalf.

Our thanks to all who supported the work here in Zanzibar financially. We understand the current economic difficulties in the United States have created an environment where giving is lower than ever in the 16 year history of our ministry. But when I hear the impact and experience first-hand the fruits of the harvest I am encouraged to keep asking so that we can keep going and making disciples in all nations!

I know the people of Zanzibar are worth whatever sacrifice I am asked to make, for Christ already determined their value (and mine) by dying on the cross to purchase freedom for the slaves.

One of my favorite verses to quote is found sandwiched in the middle of the book. Perhaps I quote it often because I feel it fits me well: "And purify unto Himself a PECULIAR people zealous of good works." Titus 2:14

Peculiarly smiling
Zealous in His service
Charlynn


"Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all." Titus 3:15

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Oak in Ophrah

"The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah...and the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and said, "The Lord is with you, mighty warrior." Judges 6:11-12

We walked from the car to the Pastor's office and the sound coming from the mosque was deafening. It was louder than the previous day's chants and the some voices sounded feminine. We asked the Pastor if women were allowed to make pronouncements. He shook his head and told us that these were not women but the voices of children. "It seems they have decided to hold a contest today for the reciting of the Koran. These are young boys who have memorized these verses." I had to shake MY head. If evangelicals were half as committed and enthusiastic to memorize the Bible and pray even three times a day, the world would be a different place.

We entered the sanctuary and began the conference trying hard to speak loudly enough to be heard above the cacophony coming from behind us. From 10:00 in the morning until 2:00 in the afternoon there was not one breath or break in the consistency of the speaking. All throughout our lunch the voices were louder and louder. I sat trying not to get indigestion, and then I had an inspiration!

I remembered the Israelite army sitting for forty days in the Valley of Elah listening to the mocking of their God. It wasn't until the little brother of three of the soldiers showed up with some cheese that things changed. David asked, "Who is this uncircumscised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?" 2 Samuel 17:26

We had been told earlier that the mosque knew there was something happening at the church because of all the arrivals. This was their response. They were harassing us with their noise! I turned to my teammate and said, "Eureka in Zanzibar! (not really) I know what we have to do! We have to have the congregation stand here in the corner and read the passage about David and Goliath." When the interpreter asked if we were ready to begin after lunch, I explained the battle plan. I gave her the passage for the women. (1 Samuel 17:16-58) "Tell everyone with a Bible to bring it to this wall facing the mosque. We will read the scripture aloud together. For those who don't have a Bible let them give the amen, after the verses."

We started reading, Debi and I in English and all the Africans in Kiswahili. We got louder, the mosque got louder, we kept reading and amen-ing! When the passage was over the women all returned to their seats. I shared with them an account I heard about an orphanage in Mexico. A girl was about to be returned to relatives who had every intention to sell her into prostitution. The director did not know what to do as this was their legal right. She desperately phoned a friend to help her. Perhaps the older friend would have more influence with the authorities. The police arrived, the relatives arrived, the friend arrived, the girl was crying, chaos was abounding. When suddenly the friend stood up, took out her Bible and began to read aloud; verse after verse after verse after verse. The police were confused, the relatives were confused - was this woman crazy? She just kept reading. They soon saw the woman was not to be shaken or moved by the antics. They walked out and left the girl behind never to return again. The director was relieved and expecting her friend to offer some comfort or something. Instead, she said, "You didn't have to call me. Never forget you have the greatest weapon and all you need to fight any battle you are in!" Not exactly what she was expecting.

I related this story and at the conclusion the women were saying, "Amen" in agreement with the victory at the orphanage. Perhaps as you read this you are saying amen as well. I asked them to listen. They turned to each other quizzically. "What do you hear?" They looked around still not sure of the answer I was looking for.

"Listen!" I repeated.

For the first time in six hours the speakers of the mosque were absolutely silent.

"And everyone gathered here will learn that God doesn't save by means of sword or spear. The battle belongs to God..." 2 Samuel 17:47

AMEN INDEED!

I shared the story in Judges of Gideon; how he gathered a huge army to fight against the enemies of Israel. In the end God took less than one percent of the army to bring about defeat. I looked at the small number of women gathered at the church in the backyard of the mosque and said, "You are God's one percent. Less than one percent of the nation of Zanzibar is Christian, when the enemy falls the living God will get all the credit."
"On this rock I will build My church and the gates of Hell will not prevail." Matthew 16:18

Our time with these women was brief; two days does not seem nearly enough given the weight of their issues and the circumstances they face. We are confident that we have used the time wisely in training them with love, equipping them with the Word, and showing them God DOES fight with us and for us.

We begin our conference with the Sunday School teachers tomorrow. Pray for continued silencing of the enemy and his minions from the minarets!

"One more thing friends: Pray for us. Pray that the Master's Word will simply take off and race through the country of Zanzibar to a groundswell response..." 2 Thessalonians 3:1 The Message (paraphrased)

Stones in my pocket, armed, dangerous and smiling in His service


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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Heat Advisory

"...and the elements shall melt with fervent heat." 2 Peter 3:10

The sweat rolled down our cheeks. Our carefully couiffed hairdos soon wilted in the sweltering humidity. The boiling hot coffee wasn't helping to keep our core temperature in check. We finally got relief when we walked outside of the church office.

"Ahhh, a cool breeze, I was dying in there!" We said in unison. And as quickly as we made the exclamation, we both looked at each other and realized 86 degrees with high humidity is nothing compared to Texas, where the weather is still over 100 degrees!

When we left Texas a week ago the consecutive number of days (31) ranked #2 for the all time record. Each day since our arrival I have received an alert from The Weather Channel set to my area. Like a broken record it reads, "Heat Advisory in Effect, take caution...be aware...prepare yourself..."

Charlynn Johns and Debi Slaver arrived in Zanzibar praying to be more than a "Heat Advisory" (although I assure you the Bible specifically mentions hell as a lake of fire, burning hot.) We are here to encourage and equip the women to endure the fiery trials of the enemy but also to follow the advice of Jude 23 and "snatch them (their Muslim neighbors) from hell."

Today we taught about identity in Christ. The God who calls them by name. We spoke of love; loving God, loving themselves and then loving others. Those are "feel good" things to teach. But when the time came for questions and answers...

A woman stood and speaking quickly in Kiswahili told her story and asked the relevant, and in game show terms "The $64,000 question.

"How can I show love when my Muslim neighbors are trying to burn my house down for using it as a church? I am sneaking the children out after dark in case they try and kill us at night...?"

As facilitator of the discussion I quickly pointed out our cultural differences. I pointed out our skin color (they laughed at my white skin like a glow worm!) Why or how would I have something relevant to say to this obviously frightened woman? I internally ask myself that quite a few times. Who am I?

Who am I? Was actually the theme of my topic. I have the authority, because it has been given to me by Christ! I have the wisdom through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and I can "bet the farm" because I walk through the valley of the shadow of death to lead me beyond a shadow of a doubt -

God is who He says He is!

If I explained my "Boat moment" of mounting debt crisis and lack of ministry funding, she might just slap me for comparing the two. "Lady you are comparing some finances to my HOUSE being burned down and my children possibly being burned alive to your silly American mess you have got yourself into?"

Don't alarm yourselves. We did not have this confrontation. But at any given time no matter who you are, what your are fretting, panicking, acting on hard core facts of imminent danger none of that changes the fact the God IS GOD.

Here's the mystery:

"The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church... If ONE part hurts, EVERY OTHER PART IS INVOLVED IN THE HURT

and in the healing.". 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 The Message

We didn't come to fight their neighbors or convince those torch-weilders the house used as a church is a good thing. We are not here as negotiating lawyers, or medical doctors to heal their ailments. We are here representing the Body of Christ (that would be you) to preach Christ and Him crucified.

When we walked outside of a hot room on the other side of the world, we immediately thought of our "brothers and sisters" in the deadly heat affecting the southwest. But can you tell me, when you walked out into that deadly heat, did you think of the 900,000 people of Zanzibar who will perish in ETERNAL heat? Did your discomfort cause you to think about those who right now tonight are sneaking their children out a back door through the village to keep them from being burned alive just because a church meets in their home?

Their is a heat advisory here in Zanzibar. The heat may come after people die under the false doctrine, the heat may come through the persecution of the believers. One thing is certain, this is no "greenhouse effect"! My personal flames flare when I listen to the enemy tell me I am not enough, I am too weird, way too white, and extraordinarily tall by compare.

"Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Revelation 7:16-17

Pray for the equipping of the saints! Enter into the sufferings, bear their burdens and thus fulfill the law! Pray for extra-ordained days.

God is who He says He is!

Carrying the fire hose
With a smile
Charlynn

Monday, August 08, 2011

Ruins

"It's a fact: darkness isn't dark to You; night and day, darkness and light, they're all the same to You." Psalm 139:12 The Message

I'm sitting here on a queen-size bed in my hotel in Zanzibar. The four-posters surrounding me keep the mosquito net from becoming a spider trap in the middle of the night when I must wake up and rid myself of a portion of the three liters of water I have consumed throughout my day. My teammate sits across from me with the ever handy Strong's Concordance to search for relevant scriptures to describe our day's experience. We discuss how King James (Strong's notes the KJV) would say wilderness or ruins or fragrance. We are engaged in a lively discussion, and then

the lights go out.

We both laugh, because anticipating the nightly event, I have my handy (though ridiculous looking) camping headlight affixed to my forehead.

"What are some verses on darkness" I ask, since all other references have become seemingly irrelevant in the quiet blackness of our room. It is all the same to Him! And as I write 10,000 miles from my homeland it IS actually light there.

Today was our last day of preparation. We assembled gift bags for the Conference attendees, and gathered our subject materials. When we finished we had time to visit a small beach and take a walk. My teammate wanted to inquire about boat rentals and we set off down the shoreline towards the pier.

As we were walking, I noticed a dilapidated stone building and called out for them to wait up. I climbed up the banks and saw a small inconspicuous sign that read "Mtoni Palace Ruins." Intrigued, I asked our driver if he would check out if there was a guide for the location. He returned with the resident archaeologist who proceeded to give us an amazing history lesson and detailed explanation of the locale.

The structure was the first palace built on the island, by an Arab who came from Oman. He called the place in ZANZIBAR (transliterated) Arabic meaning "The Desert Place," because there was not one tree on the island. The Sultan brought plants from India and other exotic lands and created a nation known for its "spice." It wasn't long before he expanded his exports to include the trafficking of human slaves. Ghana, West Africa was the export capital of slavery to Europe and the Americas but for India, China, Russia and nations East the place to purchase people was Zanzibar.

We walked through the ruins, heard the history and I thought of the legendary pain and suffering this Arab man and his descendants brought to this land. After the coming of Livingstone and the exposure of the cruel inhumanity, the practice stopped but the religion of the Arabs remained. The Sultan turned a desert nation into a visible garden of Edenic spice but left it a spiritual desert

Tomorrow we begin the conference to nurture and nourish the believers here. We are putting hoes of hope, rakes of restoration, and wheel barrows of the Word into the hands and hearts of the laborers here. Pray for the fallow ground!

"The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom." Isaiah 35:1

We are equipping the saints, making disciples of all nations and building up the ruins of souls decimated by deception.

"Tell fearful souls, "Courage! Take heart! God is here, right here, on His way to put things right and redress all wrongs. He's on His way! He'll save you!" Isaiah 35:4 The Message

Pray for wisdom, discernment and more and more and more and more to be said and shared. Our conference time was increased today an additional two hours. Pray for the Holy Spirit to fill the time!

"This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. " 1 John 1:5

This little light o' mine
I'm gonna let it shine!

In the dark night with His Light
Charlynn

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Back to Dalmanutha

"He got in the boat with His disciples, and went to the region of Dalmanutha." Mark 8:10

It seems that my time in Zanzibar continues to follow a "boat" theme! The few days before our departure, definitely felt like Jesus was "asleep" in the boat during the middle of my storm. And though my spirit and anxiety have at times improved, the "waves" on an ocean of circumstances well beyond our control remain.

Last year I wrote regarding "Dalmanutha" and the fact that while I had read the verses and remember the account of the feeding of the four thousand, the "region of Dalmanutha," never remained in my memory. This morning during the church service the Pastor read the passage in Mark and I felt like I had returned to a familiar neighborhood. "Dalmanutha, nice place to visit, but you have to take a boat to get there."

Zanzibar, nice place to visit, but you have to take a boat to get here.

The sound is exotic, but do you remember why you know of Zanzibar? I thought about Zanzibar like Dalmanutha. What do I know and why exactly do I even know about this small island off the coast of Tanzania? Is it the Bing Crosby and Bob Hope film "Road to Zanzibar" that created the buzz about this distant land? Is it the spice exports they are famous for? I just can't recall, but for certain as we "took a boat" to get here I knew it's a place that needs to know Jesus.

Yesterday we arrived after our brief intermission at the YWCA in Dar es Salaam. We both decided that while it was safe, we were definitely too old for a shared restroom at the end of a long hallway. At breakfast, the canteen was filled with a variety of bohemian-looking youth (dread locks, torn jeans, and tube tops). After our breakfast of bread and mixed-meat weenie we were off for the boat.

Here's our dilemma: two middle-aged very light-skinned women with two hundred pounds in four bags two carry-ons and a back pack trying to negotiate through three hundred very dark-skinned Africans with a few pieces of hand luggage. The porters (who I vehemently warned about touching the above stated two hundred pounds) actually mocked us about trying to get down to the dock. We finally relented and let a porter negotiate through the crowd, load our heavy burdens on the boat and be off!

I was glad we were not on the "slow boat to China," but the fast boat to Zanzibar which still took over two hours across rough seas. "Jesus, are you awake yet? We are going to need some help getting off this boat."

We docked and stood among the crowd who were trying to collect belongings which ranged from new bedspreads and coconuts to the backpacks of a group of bohemians. Reasonable porters appeared and took our bags to the immigration area where we became official entrants into ZANZIBAR!

We were met by the Pastor and after a quick lunch we took a tour of the site of the ancient slave market. A huge stone cathedral now stands where human beings were tortured, beaten and held in chains and auctioned off like livestock. Our guide told us the story of the explorer Stanley Livingstone, who in his search for the source of the Nile stumbled upon the brutality of slavery in Zanzibar. After seeing the atrocities perpetrated here in this land, he left his primary occupation and began a fight to abolish the practice. A crucifix made from the tree he died under is in the church; a golden plaque recorded the following:

"To the glory of God and in memory of Livingstone and other explorer men good and brave, who to advance knowledge set free the slave and hasten Christ's Kingdom in Africa, loved not their lives, even unto death."

Dalmanutha was famous because Jesus was there. One reason Zanzibar is famous - because two thousand years later a follower of Jesus came here and began the process of abolishing the slave trade the area was infamous for - Dr. Livingstone you may presume.

We are here this week to abolish the slavery of false doctrines. Six hundred thousand people live on the island but less than 6,000 claim Christ as King. Today during the church service the loudspeakers from the mosque next door competed with the praise. We were told whenever permission is given to build a church, the locals immediately put a mosque next to it. The loudspeakers may drown out the sound but they cannot drown out the Truth.

"If the Son sets you free you will be free indeed." John 8:36

Waiting to hear ALL God's children say, "Free at last, free at last, thank God we're free at last"

Following in Livingstone's footsteps
Smiling
Charlynn

Friday, August 05, 2011

Afar in Dar

Just a quick note to say we have arrived safely, along with all our luggage!

We are trying to sleep fast with entangling ourselves in the duct-tape patched mosquitoes nets covering our beds. I am quite sure I will be the feast for at least one hundred lucky beasts who snuck inside before I could tuck the net down. They were swarming in our little YWCA hostel.

Before you start feeling too sorry for us, here in the hinterlands, fighting infections and insects, and I sing myself a pitiful lullaby, God graced us undeservedly by giving us a Business Class upgrade from Zurich to Dar. We slept long and well and ate like queens. Now back to reality.

Pray for our protection tonight. I have my little door alarm jammed up to the entrance so we should be okay.

Pray for our rest and recovery as we must wake up in a few hours to get to the boat to Zanzibar.

Pray for our luggage and transfers

Pray for our health

Pray for all the women who are preparing to hear what the Lord has brought for them.

Pray for the salvation of an island nation steeped in the traditions of ancient Islamic culture

Just pray

Remembering the airplane fondly
Smiling in His service
Charlynn


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