Friday, May 8, 2009

A Cloud As Small As a Man's Hand

It was the first day of the Pastors Conference in Kabwe, Zambia -- a city of about 300,000 people, a 2 hour drive northwest of the capital city of Lusaka. Pastor Eric Mwambelo, the Founder and Director of Kabwe Home-Based Care was speaking to the 2,700 pastors and Christian leaders from 250 churches attending this two day event that focused on the role and responsiblity of the church in dealing with HIV/AIDS. About 14% of Zambia's 11 million people are HIV positive and in urban areas the infection rate is over 20%.

Pastor Eric was talking about the need for new wineskins -- that in order for God's kingdom to come and His will to be done in the 21st century, the church needed to be different and do things differently. New wineskins were needed before God could do everything He wanted to do.

The Lord had also been showing Eric a picture of a small cloud that He wanted to turn into a huge outpouring of God. This picture relates to the story of Elijah in I Kings 18:44 – where God told Ahab to get ready because heavy rains were coming. Elijah went to look for the rain clouds – but saw nothing. It was only after the 7th time that he saw “a cloud as small as a man’s hand coming up from the sea”. Through Elijah, God told Ahab to take his chariot so the heavy rainstorm was not going to overtake him. In other words, God is about to do something quite remarkable -- He is going to pour out His blessing – and we have to get ready for it – even if it seems right now that there is only a small cloud the size of a man’s hand on the horizon.

As I reflect on my recent trip to Malawi and Zambia, these words by Pastor Eric are one of the things that are burned into my heart and memory. They confirm some of the things that I have sensed from God over the past two years. We are in a time of preparation and we need new containers and wineskins that will enable us to be part of what God is wanting to do.

My second memory of this trip occured in Malawi. I was asked to speak at Resurrection Life Church in Matanda -- a church and community that City of Grace has been partnering with for three years. The church meets in the "almost finished" Community Center that is being constructed by the people of Matanda, Somebody Cares and City of Grace. As I was preparing for the service the Lord spoke to me out of Judges 6 and 7. In these two chapters God was speaking to Gideon about delivering Israel. Gideon's response was a question - "How shall I deliver Israel when my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am in the youngest in my father's house?" In other words, Gideon was asking God how He could use someone who was among the "least of these". God's answer was simple -- I use the least of these because then people will know that I am God -- and that deliverance comes from God!

As I shared this message with the people of Matanda -- many of whom are non-literate, subsistence farmers struggling with malaria, TB, AIDS and just being able to survive from day-to-day -- I sensed that God wanted to encourage them, and tell them that He has great plans for them. That what God is doing in this small village, would be heard around the world and that He was going to do great things in and through them -- even though they were among " the least of these". I saw and heard, that they received this "word from the Lord".

A couple of days later, we participated in a two day event for 800 pastors, church leaders and traditional leaders and 300 youth leaders. On the second day of the event we went to the youth leaders conference. As I watched what was happening, I began to pray and God clearly said to me that the hope of Malawi was among these rural youth. That God wanted to use "the least of these" to change the nation. That there were Gideons in the crowd who He would use in powerful ways.

Friends, the hope of the world is not in politicians, in the highly educated, in the wealthy, but among His people who understand the words of God through the prophet Jeremiah in chapter 9:22-23.

Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts, boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for I delight in these things.

Personal News

The next few weeks are life-changing for us as a family. On May 13 Donovan leaves for Korea to get married. Debbie and I are thrilled that he is marrying Hyesun, a wonderful young woman we love. The big day is June 6. Donovan and Hyesun will be living in the Seoul area for the next 8-12 months while Hyesun go through the US immigration process. Hyesun will continue to work with BlogCocktail (a Korean blogging company) and Donovan will be doing freelance web programming for clients here in the US - and learning Korean.

Debbie and I will be back home on June 7. The summer will begin with a fair amount of travel. I'll be in Toronto, Austin and most likely the west African nation of Burkina Faso in June and July. Debbie plans on spending much of July in Malawi (if you want to join her, let us know).

If you would like to see and read more about what we are doing, feel free to click on:

Our Flickr Photoblog

Home-Based Care Africa

Thank you so much for your prayer and support. We really appreciate it.

Karl and Debbie

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