For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.—Ephesians 6:12
People say that traveling abroad changes a person, that traveling gives one a better, more rounded and realistic view of life. For two weeks spanning the end of May and beginning of June, 2009, I had the privilege of going to Mamelodi on what most people would call a mission trip. Our team, however, called it a Vision Trip, one in which we were not defined by what we did so much as what we learned. While there are many things I learned on this trip (many of which I am still processing), one day in particular, and one lesson that spanned many days, stands out the most clearly in my mind.
This clear memory of a day occurred on Thursday, May 28. Our team divided into several mini teams who joined various members of the Powerhouse as they went from house to house delivering boxes of food to those who needed it, and praying for the people because they needed that, too. I was part of the team who accompanied Nkele as she made her rounds.
Nkele needs an introduction. She is a beautiful and strong woman of God, one for whom I have great respect. She is tender-hearted and soft-spoken, but tells it like it is. God has turned her past, one tormented by devil possession and traditional healing, into something beautiful. He has given her the eyes and the heart to see the spiritual realm. Her insight and perception into spiritual matters, and her obvious heart for people, combined with her natural leadership abilities, is a wonder to observe. God’s grace and transformative abilities are magnificent!
The first house Nkele led us to was a house in which two blind gogos, or grannies, reside. One had been a traditional healer, or a witch doctor, who claimed to want to belong to Christ. Her fears held her back, though; she was holding onto the medicines, potions and amulets of her practice, afraid that if she destroyed them, her ancestors would come and kill her. In South Africa, ancestor worship is common practice and binds people in fear. This woman was no exception. She claimed Christ as Lord, but could not believe that He is the only God, the only one powerful enough to protect her from her fears. Nkele graciously pointed out the flaws in the woman’s thinking, reminding her that God is the only powerful god, and that He could set her free.
While the woman allowed us to pray for her and to hug her, she still held onto those fears, as far as I know. Her witchcraft wares still reside in one room of her house. While we were there, we observed that the rest of the house had been cleaned (thanks to the Campus Outreach/Powerhouse team), but that the room where these objects were kept was a literal stinking mess—the gogo had refused to allow this room to be cleaned. The smell emanating from this room was horrific, making it difficult to breathe. A deep part of me realized that it bears the stench of demons. We entered it, upon the suggestion of one of the team members, and prayed over this room. We prayed that the demons would be bound and cast out in Christ’s name, that the woman would be set free, that the wiles of the devil would not prosper, that God would redeem this place. We prayed for the stench of evil filth to be replaced with the pure, fresh air of salvation and grace. We claimed God’s sovereignty over the Evil One. Our simultaneous prayers lasted for several minutes and were followed by a worship song. All of us had tears streaming down our faces, shaken by the obvious fear and blinding—both physical and spiritual—of the woman, and by the power of God in this place in spite of the evil. By the time we finished, the stench in the room had diminished somewhat, and Nkele nodded, announcing that, “God is at work in this place.”
Never have I been one to believe in the spiritual realm so literally. Somehow, the fighting of demons seemed to me to be some hazy story enacted in the faint otherworld. This day, then, really helped me to understand that the spiritual realm is not something far away, but is here, inside and around us. It helped me understand what it means to actively claim God’s power and promises, to put on the armor of God, to engage in spiritual warfare. Spiritual warfare does not entail simply going about our business, avoiding anything that resembles evil; it means getting out of our holy citadel where we congregate in pious fear. It means engaging the enemy, seeking it out, calling evil what it is; and facing those demons with boldness, in Christ’s name. It also means blessing God as we worship in claiming His truth and goodness as the overcomer of all evil. It is our job to join the angels in spiritual battle, as part of God’s holy army.
This day overwhelmed me both spiritually and emotionally. This realization of my job as part of God’s army stuns me still. I am ashamed of my laziness in the spiritual realm, of my lack of a joyful, bold and active prayer life. Prayer warriors do not just hide in closets and mumble rote prayers; they engage others—people, angels, demons, God—with bold statements of God’s power and sovereignty, with rigorous claiming of God’s promises, with the pouring forth of truth we find in Scripture. This can be spontaneous, in the middle of a normal conversation or in response to someone’s complaint or ailment. But it must be done, and done boldly. With God on our side, we have nothing to fear, for what can anyone do against us?
Has this trip changed me? Yes, it has changed my outlook on my purpose as a Warrior Daughter of God. It has given me perspective and a desire to be bold in Christ. I went to South Africa, not to do, but to learn; and God filled the empty cup of my heart. May He show Himself faithful, as He is, to perform the good work within me, and to fight the holy fight through me. With God, all things are possible!
Rebekah McInnis lives in Chapel Hill, NC, with her two cats and dog. She “makes her living” as an administrative assistant for Carolina Outreach, but desires to help women discover free life in Christ as her true living. When she feels the urge, she writes random thoughts on her blog, Belonging.