So I guess it's about TIME I share a little of what I've been up to these last few months with ARME...obviously I haven't had much time for blogging! But boy have I/we been accumulating the stories and adventures....
In short, through a series of providential workings, God lead myself, my brother Homer, and my fellow ARME teammate Dave back to the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division this past February. (Actually, it was a "return trip" for me and a first for the guys!) I knew we were going to be doing lots of speaking and leading lots of United Prayer as representatives of the ARME Prayer Force....but I had no idea the full extent of the ADVENTURE that we were in for!!!! The greatest part of it all was seeing how God worked on the hearts of thousands of church members and leaders, how walls were broken down, and how the passion for United Prayer was spread. But it didn't stop there...the whole journey was an "experience" as we drove literally 4,600+ miles around Africa on the "wrong" side of the road, saw lots of wildlife, visited Victoria Falls, spent hours negotiating with Border Patrol posts, and tried to navigate the roads safely. (Dave was our steady driver who drove pretty much ALL of those 4,600 miles. He was also our border patrol negotiator, which he did a great job at!) But most of all, we could tell that God was with us...and we saw His hand every step of the way. Looking back I'll always be in awe at how He blessed and led. And it's one journey I wont soon forget...
The pictures above mostly share from the sights we saw or our adventures on the road. It's hard to take tons of pictures from the prayer room or to show the lives that were impacted by the United Prayer. However, below is a breakdown of what we did during our time traveling thru Africa with United Prayer. It's a report I wrote for our team...
Part I: South Africa & SID meetings
Feb 5th - Our first time of sharing and united prayer occurred the first Sabbath we were in South Africa - 2 days after arrival. We were taken to a local church where Dave & I were given about 2 hours to speak and lead united prayer. Many people choked up and were crying during this time, and you could tell that God was really moving on hearts and reviving people before our very eyes. Praise the Lord.
Feb 9th - 12th - Our first official appointment with the SID (Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division) was actually staffing a prayer room which opened several days later. (Originally their meetings were to be from Sun-Sab, but they had shortened the mtg to run Wed-Sab! So we had a little extra time to rest, see some wildlife, and write e-mails before we moved to the meeting location. This was a huge blessing, as I think we all were still recovering, not just from jet-leg, but from the recent ARME at PSR - which I never have had time to blog about!) Anyway, at these meetings, we had about 80-100 gathered, representing the Union Presidents and Conference Presidents of the SID. It was hard to believe that such a small company is actually in charge of shepherding and leading over 2.6 million members in the SDA church. While the prayer room here never had more then 5 or 6 at a time, as there were always many important meetings going on, the leaders did come and seemed to really appreciate the time we spent with them. In addition to the prayer room, we took turns leading United Prayer with the whole group every morning. Once again God really blessed. Pastor Ratsara was sooooo happy with the results of God's obvious leading and blessing.
Part II - Malawi Union
Feb 13-20th - Part two of this Prayer Trip Adventure started the Sunday after the SID meetings were over. Originally we were thinking to fly to the different Unions as I (Melody) had been led to believe that this would be fairly inexpensive when buying tickets in country. However, it turned out to be MUCH more expensive then we were thinking, so David suggested we rent a car and drive. It was significantly cheaper, a whole lot more fun, and built our faith and characters and prayer life tremendously in the process. :-)
Feb 13th-16th - It was through very "trying" circumstances that we crossed our first border post of Zimbabwe. They turned us back the first time because we didn't have the proper rental paperwork for our car. The second time, it still took 5 hours to get through...and even then, they tried to make us bribe them and they tried to say we could not cross. For the most part, I let Dave do the talking, but finally things looked so impossible, I plead with the officials (as only a girl can do!) and begged that they would have mercy and let us through. God delivered. (Each border was a trial, but this first crossing was by far the worst! It got better the more we traveled, and we probably learned more too, how to negotiate!) When we got into our second night stop in Harare, it was late and we didn't know where to go. The city seemed wild and crazy, traffic was everywhere. We were lost. I didn't even have a good address. But again, God delivered. With a simple phone call, we discovered we were only 4 blocks away from our destination. Praise the Lord! When we finally arrived in Malawi (only 1 day later than planned) we were escorted by the Personal Ministries Director, Pastor Goodwin, up to Lilongwe (the capital of Malawi), where we had our first speaking appointment with a large congregation representing about 16 church districts. (Along the way we visited the beautiful lake Malawi!) We shared the testimonies of what United Prayer is doing around the world, the initiatives of the GC in the area of prayer, and then we led the people in United Prayer. The people responded very well to what we shared and seemed to love the United Prayer and appeared enthusiastic about implementing these concepts. Again we praise the Lord!
Feb 17th - The next day we spoke and lead United prayer with the Northern Malawi Mission workers at the Conference Office. We took the rest of the day returning to Blantyre in the South, but were able to stop briefly along the way to visit Malawi Adventist University, as well as a local village where some SDA's lived. It was neat to see how the people lived and tour some "thatch roofed" homes. I took many pictures at this stop!
Feb 18th - We spoke and lead united prayer at the Mission Field Office in Blantyre in the morning. We got stopped on the way to this appointment because Dave had mistakenly been in the wrong lane. The officer was actually writing up a ticket for us, and Dave started talking to him about "law and grace" and pleading for "Grace." Finally he got the officer laughing....and he stopped writing a ticket and let us go. It wasn't the first or the last time, God let us "off the hook" with a initially unfriendly officer. In the evening we spoke for another large congregation representing groups from different area churches. Everyone was very enthusiastic and responsive! The prayer time was beautiful....
Feb 19th - On Sabbath in Malawi, we traveled to Malamulo (The first SDA establishment in Malawi from 1902), where we spoke to over 1,000 adults, high school and college students for the Divine Service. In the afternoon we spoke again, and also split into 4 groups for United Prayer. Really enjoyed the contacts and people we met here. In fact, one young man actually took over leading my (Melody's) prayer time. And he did it PERFECTLY!!! And He's excited about continuing it on the campus.
Malawi was a beautiful country to visit, and the people were very hospitable. And Union President Frackson Kuyama gave David the invitation to come and do an Evangelistic Series in the future. So God really blessed us here!
Part III - Zimbabwe Union
We actually had three days in between appointments of Malawi and Zimbabwe, so we drove up through Zambia and down to visit Victoria Falls. This was a long but peaceful drive - no cops were waiting around the corner to harass or give us a ticket. Along the way we met briefly with the Union President of Zambia, Pastor Harrington Akombwa, and we also stopped and visited Riverside Farm Institute - which we just happened to drive by. Thank goodness, Dave turned the car around to see if this was really THE PLACE!!! I have heard about it for years and always wondered what it was like, and NOW we got to visit. That was a real treat. Victoria Falls was a treat, as well as seeing some wildlife (Elephants, Zebra's, Baboons etc) along the way.
Ellen Mfumu was our travel escort for our time in Zimbabwe. She's Woman's Ministry and Prayer Leader for this Union, and was the woman that Pastor Ratsara requested to have come work with us during the SID meetings - both in the past October and this time. She was sooooo excited and sold on what we've been doing that she pleaded with us to visit Zimbabwe on one of our first trips, so that's why Pastor Ratsara requested to have us visit Zimbabwe during this prayer trip. As I'm sure our entire team will attest, Ellen was a tremendous blessing to work with and had things all scheduled and lined up to a "T" beautifully!
Feb 23rd - Our first meeting in Zimbabwe Union was with a group of 30-40 Pastor's at the East Zimbabwe Conference Offices in Zimbabwe's capital of Harare. At first they seemed a little leery, but in the long run they were very receptive to what we shared. Many of them told us that they would implement this United Prayer with their congregations. One man, who had over 4,000 in his congregations, said what we shared gave him a whole new paradigm for how we should be doing the work through prayer and said he can't wait to share stories of how God blesses what he plans to do with this. The conference President, Pastor Chifamba, was very supportive.
Feb 24th - We had 4 hours of United Prayer meetings, training, and prayer with a large congregation of about 300 in Harare. This location was called "Arcadia" and included Woman's and Men's Ministry leaders, as well as Pastor's and lay people, representing about 40 different church congregations. This was such a great group to work with. Again David and I spoke together (as became the custom), Homer shared a few thoughts, and then we had United Prayer. Then we did practical "How-to" training for the leaders so they could duplicate what we are doing, we had Q&A session, and ended with another inspirational talk about how to remove hindrances to Prayer. Very receptive audience. At the end the woman wouldn't just shake my hand, but all started hugging me! (They were probably doing the same for the guys, don't know!)
Immediately after this we rushed to travel to KweKwe - a smaller town about 3 hours to the South where we had an evening appointment. We spoke and lead United Prayer again. Our time was brief here, but again, we saw God work.
Feb 25th - We traveled on South to Gweru where we had another 4-5 hours of training time. This time our congregation was smaller and only had about 30 people and represented about 8 or 9 churches. However, the response was very enthusiastic. One Pastor was sooo excited about what we shared that he pleaded with us to come over to Anderson High school (a SDA highschool in the area) and meet with the children. This was not on our original schedule, but we complied with the request, and we were soooo glad we did. I think this was one of Dave and I's favorite stops. We met with about 400 young people, all scrunched into a little tiny church. It seemed very intimate and personal. We spoke about 15 minutes and then divided them into 4 groups and led united prayer. They all responded and prayed sooo honestly and beautiful. It was hard to leave.
We were suppose to speak that night to a church in Bulawayo, but due to travel time did not make the appointment. Instead we had dinner with the Zimbabwe Union President, Pastor Muvuti and his Ministerial Association Director. (When Muvuti arrived, their daughter was just calling them from Anderson, where we had been earlier that day, and asking them if they'd had united prayer with us yet. Evidently she was really excited that they experience it!) Pastor Muvuti and his wife was very supportive and happy to have us, but you could tell his Ministerial director was just kinda coming along because Pastor Muvuti asked him to. I could just imagine him thinking, "Who are these kids, and what do they think they will teach us????" However, it was exciting to see that after our meetings with them on Sabbath, this Ministerial Director was soooooo excited and passionate about what God lead us to share, that he told us that THIS UNITED PRAYER must go to every conference and every church in their Union. (There are 600,000 members in this Union!) And He is the man that has the power to make it happen, so we just praise the Lord!
Feb 26th - Our Final Sabbath - We spoke with the leaders (church and ministry leaders and some lay people) for the West Zimbabwe Conference. This occurred at the Union headquarters. We had about 4 hours to speak and lead United Prayer and train at this location. There were about 300+ present. Union President Muvuti as well as Conference President Sibanda, and the ministerial director (as mentioned above) sat with us for entire meetings, which later we found out is unheard of. Unless they are leading meetings, they usually don't just sit and listen. President Muvuti told us at the end though, that we didn't just speak to the others in the congregation. What we had shared had touched HIM and impacted HIM!! So we praise the Lord for speaking through us and working in a mighty way.
In the afternoon, we visited the Shepherdesses briefly, at the West Zimbabwe Conference Offices, and then we traveled on to Solusi University where we spoke that evening to probably about 1,500+. It was a large crowd and there wasn't room to spread out and pray very well. But we hope that what we shared was still a blessing and made a difference. Many students came up afterwards to ask for advice or counsel from Dave and I, so we did feel like we connected with them.
Feb 27th - Our final United Prayer we shared with our escort and host, Ellen Mfumu at her home church where they have a 6am morning prayer time every Sunday.
Feb 28th- March 1st
We traveled back to South Africa, made our 6th and final border crossing (huge sigh of relief!!!), witnessed a deadly motorcycle wreck, spent some time driving thru Kruger National Park, and returned to the SID headquarters to rest and catch up on e-mails before flying home. It was a packed schedule, many early mornings, many late nights, cramped traveling, interesting food, limited bathroom facilities, and lots of great conversations and prayer time. Several people asked me HOW we could appear soooo rested with such a hectic trip. My only explanation is all the prayer time. In the past with such a schedule I (Melody) would have been totally exhausted and probably would have appeared more disheveled and uptight, but I think with all the prayer time we were helping lead others in, it really made a difference for us personally as well. We could really tell God was at work. And He also blessed us with a great team. We had so much fun together.
As we talked with Pastor Ratsara in the SID offices before we left, he pressed us for when we could put it on our calendars to come again. We gave him no commitments, but we know God did a mighty work and He has an even greater work for the future. For now all we can say is PRAISE THE LORD!!!!! We've prayed for Showers of Blessings and there were lots of showers of blessings!!!
So hopefully this report has encouraged and blessed each one of you. Again we are thankful for each of you, and for the support that you've allowed ARME to invest in this trip. It's been significant, but more significant than the cost is the Revival and Reformation that we see God bringing in answer to United Prayer. May this continue...and spread....not just within our own circle, but around the world!