“As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’
I can just imagine the look on the disciples’ faces the first moment that Jesus told them this. “We have to do what!?!” might have crossed their minds. Jesus then went on to describe what this looks like:
“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)
Essentially, The disciples were to go and proclaim a kingdom that was greater than the world. A kingdom that breaks through evil. A kingdom that cures diseases. A kingdom that redeems things that sin has ruined.
Sometimes people think that Christianity is boring. But I believe that these people haven’t truly experienced the kingdom of God breaking forth. Because casting out demons and seeing people healed by the power of the Holy Spirit is anything but boring.
In Acts, the first disciples went out, declaring that the kingdom of heaven was near. It struck me that this is essentially what we have been doing this month as well – going hut-to-hut, offering prayer to women and families that we come across in this community. And just as Jesus has confirmed His message with signs and wonders when the first apostles went out, our team has been rocked to take part in healings and deliverances this month. I’ve found that my western understanding of Christianity – where being a Christian means attending a one-hour church service on Sunday mornings – is being radically challenged. Here are three stories below.:
HEALED: MAMA SALOMA’S STORY
One morning, two of the translators we work with took us to Stella, a woman who had just become a member of our church in January. She had a small business in which she planted fruits and vegetables and sold them to the community. God had been radically working in Stella’s life, and her main prayer request was for her children and husband to come to know Jesus. Her children were there playing in the dirt, and we were able to explain the gospel to them and pray with them. My teammate Katie McNeil, who is a talented worship leader, then led us in a few songs with her guitar. As we were singing, an elderly women slowly made her way out of the mud hut behind us. We found out that she was Stella’s mother, named Mama Saloma – she was very sick and had been bed-ridden for three days but came out when she heard us singing. Although we weren’t able to determine the exact type of sickness due to language difficulties, we knew that Jesus knew exactly what she needed.
As we laid hands and prayed for her, declaring healing over her body, a confidence in my spirit rose. “Thank you for healing Mama Saloma today, Jesus. In your name, Amen.”
The prayer ended and we opened our eyes. I asked her how she felt. “Mzuri,” she replied, which is Swahili for “good.” Good!?! I thought. How good was good?
As I was trying to determine how to communicate this, Mama Saloma then burst into song, singing and worshipping Jesus, praising our God who heals. Her face was filled with joy and peace. We sang together for a few minutes…
Her spontaneous worship had answered my question: Mama Saloma felt good, really good. God had healed her completely, and the translators were able to confirm this. She told us that she knew that God sent us to her that day to pray for her. Praise God that He is a good who heals!
One afternoon, Megan and I went to purchase a bottle of soda at a small shop. It was SUPER hot and humid, so the only thing on our mind was a nice, cold soda. Unfortunately, the power was out…which you will find is a more-than-common occurrence in Africa. We went from neighborhood store to store, then finally came across one family-run store where they did have soda that was not lukewarm. A young man named Atnus was running the shop that day, and after we finished our sodas, he invited us into his yard to meet his family. As we stepped behind the gate, a delicious warm white roll with jelly was placed into our hands by Mama Modesta, We were invited to lunch at their house the following day, where we met the whole family and were served chicken, fish, rice, and cabbage, a true smorgasbord by African standards.
As conversation developed, they asked us what had brought us to their small community near Mwanza. We said we were missionaries from America and had come to share Jesus’ love with this community. They had been strong Catholic believers for years, but had many questions about faith, God, and what happens when we die… Over the next few days, we spent time visiting them – loving them, caring for them, and discussing the matters that were on their heart. Attnus, their 18-year-old son, was particularly interested in following Jesus; we asked him if he would like to pray and surrender his life to Jesus and he said yes!
That afternoon, I asked Attnus what he was going to do. When he replied, I thought he said something about washing his clothes. But then I realized that he said that all he wanted to do that afternoon was to be close with God. That truly warmed my heart. He said that after we prayed, he felt clean and holy as he had never felt before. I encouraged him to continue to draw close to Jesus every day of his life.
DELIVERED: TATU’S STORY
On our second day here, we came up to a small hut.. A young woman was outside of her hut, cooking with a pot on the coals. She invited us to sit down, and as conversation developed we asked her if there was anything she needed prayer for. Tatu said that her biggest concern was that demons came into her home and disturb her at night. We asked her if she ever went to church, and she told us that every time she went she would fall over when people prayed for her.
I wasn’t really sure what to think of this, as I’m the first to admit that I have a lot to learn about the demonic realm. I know that the bible talks about followers of Jesus casting out demons but had never experienced what this might look like firsthand. I’m thankful that God uses us in spite of our inadequacies and I said a quick prayer that the Holy Spirit would lead us. As we started praying, she started thrashing around, which is what some people called “manifesting a demon.” Jesus is the name above every name so as we prayed in Jesus’ name, anything that is not of Christ must leave. In the next minute, as we prayed for her, something in my spirit rose inside of me. I said loudly, “In the name of Jesus, I rebuke you and command you to come out!”
She slowly collapsed to the ground. After a minute, she came to. We asked her how she felt. She said she had a little headache, so we prayed against the headache and released God’s healing. Then she said she felt really good. Really peaceful and free.
The good news is that we were then able to lead her to Jesus and she gave her life to the one who had just set her free. I felt compelled to give Tatu a beaded necklace as to continually remind her of what God did for her that day.
Tatu started coming to church, was given a bible, and was connected with a mentor at the church to help her grow in her walk with God. I felt really good about how the church really empowered us to come alongside what God is already doing and further their disciple-making efforts.
Yes, Jesus sent his followers out to declare that the kingdom of heaven was near. A kingdom in which there is peace and freedom, where there are no demons and no sickness. Our role as followers of Jesus is to bring Christ’s kingdom near, down to earth by the power of prayer. Would you do something today to bring Christ’s kingdom near? Who knows how God might show up…\
Here’s a video that my teammate Megan made about our time in Tanzania: