Guest Post: Rebekah McInnis On Engaging In Spiritual Warfare

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.—

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.

Get Adobe Flash player

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.

12 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. (ESV)

Focusing On The One

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”—Mother Teresa

These days, as we find the months passing too quickly and there still so much left to do, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. A recent happening, though, reminded me of how important it is to pause and focus on the one instead of becoming daunted by the need of the multitude. After all, throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus attracting crowds but never failing to stop and meet one need at a time.

I’m also reminded of how sometimes God can take something discouraging to one person and use it as a blessing to another. When Allan threw out his back many months ago we didn’t imagine that, from that event, the AR team would experience one the most touching moments of our time here yet in being used to bless one young man and his family.

Get Adobe Flash player

You may recall our blog post from early September about the Powerhouse outreach team meeting a bed-ridden young man named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was born crippled and mentally impaired, but rather than allow him to be given over to institutional care, his parents considered him the greatest gift from God and have ever since cared for him without complaint. Sadly, they can only accommodate him on a rickety old flat bed in the garage, right next to a broken-down, unusable car.

Back in September, Allan found himself lying on the X-ray table at the hospital. The doctor who attended him that day recently helped us obtain a wheeled, adjustable hospital bed for Nicodemus. It was a joyous day for Allan and Annie to pick up the bed, meet up with us and feeding scheme team and for us to go deliver the bed to Nicodemus and his family. Click here to read Allan’s full account of this special day. Truly Nicodemus’ parents were without words they were so surprised and grateful, and while Nicodemus couldn’t articulate with words his thanks, his giant smile communicated enough. It was awesome to see him sitting up for the first time in his new bed.

If you’re wondering how you yourself can meet the need of one in South Africa, we invite you to check out Africa Revolution’s new Partnership Projects Listing for a laundry list of immediate needs as well as ongoing projects. As you’ll see, there are many ways—from helping build the church’s Sunday School classroom to sponsoring a student to replacing the worship team’s drum set—to join in what God is doing here. No contribution is too small, for every bit of your support will touch at least one life. And touching one life can make all the difference.

The Kingdom of God

I’ve had the sense for the past few weeks that my understanding of God’s kingdom is growing. Seeing and experiencing so many different things here has given me a greater sense of how big God is and how no matter how I may try to put God in a box, that box can never be big enough.

About a month or so ago we went to hear a man named Myles Monroe speak at a church in Pretoria. The place was packed with people of all colors, and he delivered a powerful message about the kingdom of God (or the kingdom of heaven). It was then that I began thinking about the part of the Lord’s Prayer that goes, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” It blew my mind to think of the kingdom of God advancing throughout the earth, instead of being some far off place we go to when we die. I imagine it being a lot like the United Kingdom going around back in the day conquering lands and adding to their territory. But of course the King of the kingdom of God is a true King, not a ruthless tyrant. He is one that is worthy to wield so much power, dominion and authority; one who truly deserves worship and reverence and awe; one that leaves His subjects with no choice but to fall flat on our faces when in His presence. In other words, the kingdom of God is nothing like the U.K. or any other earthly kingdom. Instead of brute force and might, the kingdom spreads through this earth with love. And it’s not some kind of mystical or magic love; it’s real, tangible love spread by God’s ambassadors: Christians.

I've witnessed God's kingdom coming on earth as we've gone out with the Powerhouse team to bring food to the poor each week. We visit a lot of sad situations. But each week those situations are improving and it's nothing short of God's doing. This last week we witnessed a lot of things that convinced me God is at work. For instance, we've been visiting a house where there's a man with one leg, two or three gogos with various health issues and a slew of tenants that live behind the house that don't know what to do and are often overwhelmed by the situation.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. —Jesus in

One of the gogos, Johanna, is blind. The first time we met her it was at the banquet for the disabled and elderly. She had to be carried in and helped around. We started visiting her and praying with her, and every week she'd report some kind of improvement. One week she was not only walking but dancing around and singing. Truly, despite ups and downs, God is working on her body. Then this past week, she reported to us that she can see! Her vision is still cloudy but she could tell Rebecca exactly what she was wearing and that she had white skin. It was a true miracle seeing the scales literally fall off her eyes, and I believe God will keep working in her body and her life until she can fully see...and He won't stop there. There are many other issues related to ancestral worship, her past as a sangoma (a witch doctor) and other things that need prayer; but God will continue to work in her life, bringing His Kingdom and His will to this earth. What a privilege it is to be a part of that.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. —Jesus in

I just want to say that God is big. He's bigger than any concept we can possibly imagine. Yet He loves every one of us individually so much that He knows the number of hairs on our head. He loves us all so much that He risked everything by becoming a tiny, helpless baby born into a world full of hostility toward Him. While on earth he spent His time healing people of their diseases, telling people about the kingdom of God and trying to prepare His disciples to take over after He was gone. I want to be a disciple, bringing His kingdom on earth. I want to believe in miracles. I want to let God be God. I want to let myself reflect His image, instead of making God into something that reflects my image. I want to know about this kingdom of God that Jesus speaks more of than any other subject during his public ministry.

As we visited the last house this past week, I prayed for a 23-year-old orphan named Colin and his grandmother. As I did, I could feel the love of God coming to that place. As God gave me the words to pray, I could sense His kingdom invading whatever darkness was there. I could almost hear the shackles of poverty rattling loose. When I finished praying, I could see the change on that young man's face as tears welled up and he thanked us for coming to see them. As I walked back to the car, trying to keep myself together, I knew we had experienced a small piece of the kingdom of God.

If you're still wanting more, Allan recently preached a great sermon at the Powerhouse on the kingdom of God—click the button below to listen.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (ESV)

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (ESV)

Stocking The Pantry

Pick-n-Pay’s donation of food this week was enormous! Above is a photo taken on Tuesday of Nate, Annie, Allan, Vivian, Nkele, Pinky and Will as we were unloading the AR Vito and stocking the fridge and freezer inside the kitchen room at the Powerhouse. We appreciate everyone’s prayers that this ministry continue to be the blessing that it is each week to families in need throughout Mamelodi. The change from destitution to hope that we are seeing from week to week among the families we visit speaks to the light and joy that only the love of God can bring.

Going Out To Practice Love

Today we went out to distribute food that was donated from Pick-n-Pay. As always the food was mainly an excuse to go out and visit people, many of them folks that were at the VIP banquet last Saturday. To see the faces light up as we approached, to see their excitement to have visitors who pray for them and encourage them, was a blessing to us. There’s one granny, we call her “Baba Gogo” because she always thanks baba—which means daddy, referring to God. She is so thankful and jumps around and claps her hands when we come (next time we go to her house we’re taking video, as there’s no other way to do it justice).

Of course the food is actually important as well; many of the people we visited said they hadn’t eaten all day. One granny said she was so hungry she ate the 30 bananas we had dropped off a few weeks before, which, not surprisingly, made her stomach run. While she told us laughing about it, it’s also sad. It makes me wonder what she does on the days we don’t show up with food.

It's a true privilege to visit the "least of these" in the township. To pray with them, to encourage them. I know we'll look back on this year and these times of serving will stand out among all the other wonderful memories. As one man who was serving with us said, "Today we went out to practice love."

Melting My Heart

We had the privilege of serving the poor twice this week, due to a very large donation of food from one of the local stores we visited last week! There are tons of stories I could share about how those experiences affected me and the team, but I wanted to just share one story from church today. The boy you see below, Thabang (who is the brother of Maria and Koketso ) is one of the people we fed on Saturday. This Sunday after service, Thabang pulled me aside quietly and said, "Chicken." I didn’t understand at first what he was talking about, then he pointed to his stomach and said, "Hungry." Then he rubbed it and smiled and said, "All better now. Thank you for chicken." My heart melted… I reached out and hugged him and then reminded him how much God loves him, and how much He cares for him. I made him repeat to me, "God is my father," because at first he kept saying, "God, the father." After our exchange I stood up and tears poured out of my eyes. I felt the force of Jesus’ words, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." ()

For more stories from this week, check out Allan and Annie’s blogpost .

Click here to view these photos and others larger and on a special page.

40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (ESV)

Serving The Poor On Saturday

“As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!” —Psalm 40:17

Last Saturday, we joined the Powerhouse in serving a few families in the community who Vincent knew were facing many troubles. Armed with cleaning supplies, a washing machine, ample food provisions and even painting supplies, 15 of us—including many youth from the church, which was awesome!—set out mid-morning eager to help in any way we could. Vincent chuckled later as we learned a lesson that day: don't give people a heads-up that people from the church are visiting—they'll clean house in expectation of your arrival! So needless to say, we didn't end up cleaning or painting anyone's house or washing anyone's clothes, but we did bring song, prayer and encouragement to the families we encountered.

We set out that morning thinking we would visit two or three families, but as the morning went on, momentum grew and we just kept on going. We visited an elderly woman and a wheelchair-bound man experiencing fighting among family members; Granny whose favorite grandchild had died earlier in the week from under-developed lungs; Selina whose father is critically ill; a sleepless elderly woman haunted by witch doctor curses and family issues; another wheelchair-bound man; and finally the family of a very special young man, Nicodemus.

The most moving experience for me that day was walking into the last house we visited. For some reason, I had a sense that I was to see/experience something unexpected. In the garage was situated a bed, and on it lay a young man somewhat disoriented, but smiling and happy we were there. The smell of urine was fresh, yet old. Flies buzzed around. Vincent translated the man's elderly parents: his name is Nicodemus and they have considered him, since birth, a gift from God. Though he has never been able to walk and has been bed-ridden for nearly 30 years, he is their gift and their joy. As we had with the other families we had visited throughout the day, we sang praise songs and prayed aloud, all at once, petitioning God on this family's behalf. Among the prayers we lifted up was that Nicodemus would know that he is loved and that his life has a purpose. In making eye contact with him, my fear of experiencing an awkward moment was replaced instead with a sense of joy: Nicodemus returning a big smile. God, you are so good, that this young man knows you and knows your love.

Last Saturday, we felt God's presence among us. In one sense, surrounded by my brothers and sisters from the Powerhouse, singing and praying at the top of their lungs with great faith, I was humbled that day by how spiritually under-exercised I am and how small my faith can be. Why do I not pray this boldly always? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that here, we are so close to need, poverty, distress, sickness and death. Or perhaps not. In fact, I was struck by how many of situations we encountered that day are no different than what we face back home: sickness, old age, family members fighting, grief, financial distress. Even the darkness of witch doctor curses manifest differently back home; it's just that Satan has more subtle ways... And poverty is just as present at home, though less exposed. I thank God that despite my sin and inexperience in serving the poor—here or elsewhere—He used me and everyone that day to bring great light and hope into places of darkness. His Spirit was surely felt. You could see it on people's faces. God was smiling back at us.

"I have waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord." —Psalm 40:1-3

Boast In This

"Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.’" —Jeremiah 9:23-24

One of the first projects that we’re tackling at the Powerhouse is to help make the church’s feeding scheme more of a regular, sustained ministry. The feeding scheme started three years ago when Nate was here on his first trip. Tired of talking but not acting, Vincent announced one Sunday, "On Wednesday, we’re going to feed the poor," challenging his congregation to follow Christ’s command. No mind that there was no food to feed the poor on Wednesday… By Tuesday, the plan still stood, but still no food. Nate was riding around with Vincent late Tuesday afternoon when Vincent got a call on his cell phone from the Pick-n-Pay, the local grocery store, to tell him that they had loads of food that had just expired but still edible—could the Powerhouse use it? Needless to say the church fed the poor on Wednesday. Praise God.

This past Sunday at church a similar thing happened. Vincent preached on the Parable of the Lost Sheep , but extended the parable beyond just the account of the shepherd risking the 99 to rescue the one and focused on the why —why would the shepherd rescue the one? Vincent creatively related to the church why that sheep has value in the eyes of the shepherd, just as why one person has value in the eyes of God—why salvation is not just the start in God’s eyes. It was neat to hear how Vincent drilled into our hearts the message of our importance as individuals, while encouraging us to share that same message with others in the community. Why is this a message a township church needs to hear? We are learning that the blacks in the township have consistently heard the lies of Apartheid (even in the post-Apartheid era)—you are nothing, you are inferior, your poverty will keep you down, you will amount to nothing; and we realize every Sunday that many of the children we interact with don’t have parents to tell them they are loved and to remind them they are important. Truly, we are finding that sharing the message of love in the name of Jesus—you are of value, you are important, you are here for a purpose, you are loved—is perhaps the most important thing we will "do" this year as we relate to people. Something seemingly small, but hugely needed.

The next thing we knew, Vincent was announcing AR ‘s intention, along with the leadership of the church, to grow the scale of the feeding scheme—in effect, to start a food pantry with a fridge and deep freezer to store breads and meats, industrial shelving to store canned goods, wholesale bags of mealie (corn) meal on hand, etc. so that the church can regularly feed the poor, while supplementing any random donation phone calls from the Pick-n-Pay. Next, Vincent announced the idea the church elders had for providing laundry care for the children who live in shacks behind the church. These children may have received donated uniforms for school but they have no way of taking care of them and essentially wear them until they are totally worn out…and, as a result, these kids stop going to school. The Powerhouse could help them by washing/drying, ironing, folding and returning their clothes each week, and in doing so, share the love of God with them by humbly serving them as Jesus would. Whether Vincent planned it, or if it was the Holy Spirit moving him to challenge his congregation, Vincent turned the sermon to the practical and busted out," "Who’s on board? Who will help?"

At least 20 or 30 hands went up. Wow. "I’ll donate an iron." "I can bring an ironing board." "I’ll provide soap." "I’ll be happy to fix any broken washing machines or irons people have." "I’ll do the laundry." "I’ll bring an ironing board." "I have a washing machine to donate." It was incredible. The church was coming together to be what a church should be, to do what Christ-followers are called to do: respond to need. We were all moved. After, Vincent invited people up to pray for what had just happened, that God would use us as His hands and feet and that people would come to know the love of Jesus through these intentions.

It was refreshing to see a church act—not call another meeting to discuss more—but act, and specifically, to care lavishly for the poor. And to see Vincent, again as he did when the feeding scheme first started, step out on faith before his church and essentially say, "Lord, this is what you have called us to do. Let’s do it," without having the necessary resources but trusting God that He would provide.

We’ve said it before, but it continues to be our privilege to be here alongside the Powerhouse, learning about what it looks like to trust God and to put the gospel into practice. Admittedly, Nate and I are working out in our heads what that will look like back home, where suburbia does an excellent job of hiding need and injustices our neighbors face. But one thing I believe, if all churches would respond as the Powerhouse does, Christians would change the world.

To listen to Vincent’s sermon, click the play button below.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

"God will not give you a mission without a provision."—Vincent Nyathi