I think I’ve earned my stripes as a cynical Christian. I’m the first to criticize hypocrisy, apathy, and pretense in the church. I cringe at churchy language and religious manipulation. Yet I remain a firm believer that God loves all people equally and that Jesus is the best redeemer of cultures and religions—Christianity included. When Jesus is present in the church, something beautiful happens.

I spent my first week in southern Ghana where every business, every preacher, every crooked cop seems to tout some exaggerated form of Christianity. The culture is so anemically religious you could call it, “Ghana’s bible belt.” I hated it.

But in northern Ghana, where we’ve been spending the last week, the church is leaner and stronger. In a Muslim and Traditionalist context, Christians believe that the gospel is always pushing outward. They believe that the most natural environment for Christian faith isn’t in the Christian capitals of the world, but in the animistic villages and nomadic tribes. They spend less time building church empires and more time sharing the “good news”. And in a real sense that “good news” isn’t JUST a hope in heaven. It’s clean water. It’s education. It’s love-based development.

I know that sometimes, development can be used as a switcheroo for proselytizing, and these Ghanaians DO preach Christianity. But I sense that most of them actually believe that God loves all people—Christians, Muslims, and traditionalists—the same. So they work tirelessly in the villages, though it’s often a thankless job. And just being around them preaches to me.

After meeting with our Fulani friends the other day, we went to a village where a small hole in the ground serves as their water supply.
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Some years it sees them through the springtime droughts. Usually, they spend a couple months struggling to find water. A small brick reservoir built to catch the rain falling off the tin roof would see them through the dry season with clean, accessible water. It wouldn’t be expensive… a couple grand maybe. In 3 other villages, we noticed that the arrival of water projects ALSO brought small village schools—sometimes just a chalkboard under a mango tree… Suddenly I’m thinking… I could buy a new macbook. Or I could kick start a future for 40 kids.

I’m looking into the faces of these beautiful children and I’m seeing my own children—Annabel and Levi—and it ruins me. I’m thinking, “We had no right to be born in America. It was just dumb luck. These people aren’t CNN headlines, poverty statistics, or global problems. These are people. They are part of me and I’m part of them. How can I not care for them?”

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The exciting thing is, the church is loving them. For all of its issues, the church… Christians are responding in love. All over Northern Ghana, we saw the church (not government) at the forefront of development. Sometimes, projects are funded by NGO’s, but it’s Ghanaian Christians providing the manpower. It’s not benefitting them or their churches. They’re doing it just because.

In church-saturated cultures, I often feel embarrassed and alarmed by the church. But in northern Ghana, I feel proud to be a Christian, because the church is presently the most effective change agent in that region. And where the gospel is pushing out to the margins, good things are happening. We were told that the general perception among traditional villages is that Christianity brings development and that’s true for a number of reasons. One is a greater connectedness to the outside world, the Christian community, and to NGO’s. Another is that Christians spend less on alcohol and witch doctors. A sense of generosity, community, and universal human brotherhood is developed. (For instance the new Christians in one village report that their faith challenges them to live at peace with their Muslim neighbors and share resources with them.) Christianity shows up as a liberating force for women. And Christians are choosing healthier lifestyles overall.

So even the flagrant proselytizing doesn’t bother me (I say this not as an evangelist, but as a Christian cynic). In fact, it excites me, because I know that 1.) It comes from a loving heart and is not manipulative, underhanded, or neo-colonial. And 2.) Conversion has brought more hope and authentic transformation than I’ve ever seen in a community. It hasn’t culturally disenfranchised them. It’s culturally invigorated, redeemed, and united them. In one village, a group of children broke out in spontaneous song and dance with big grins on their faces. Our Ghanaian friend leaned over and said, “This song is popular in the villages. It means, ‘when I die, don’t ask the soothsayer what killed me because Jesus took me away.'”

In another village, an elder told us, “everybody in the world longs for progress. We see this as progress.” THAT’S something I can get behind.

Bob Linda and Princy

Murder your daughter…

What would you do if you were in another country when you received an email that your first born child, your precious13 year old daughter, would be kidnapped, raped and murdered?  E. A. Abraham was in the US seeking to raise funds for his ministry of church planting, Bible training, schooling and orphan care in India when the email came.  As he frantically sought the Lord, an idea hit him…he should send his daughter away immediately to a boarding school in anther part of India.

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Abraham’s daughter interpreting for WDA President, Bob Dukes

Unable to give their young child an adequate explanation, her mother quickly packed their daughter up and put her on a two-day train ride with two of her uncles as escorts.  Understandably, her daughter was miserable, sad and confused.  The language and customs in this new place were very different from her own, and how she missed her mother, father and brother!

When Abraham came to visit as soon as he got home, there were many tears shed, and his daughter followed him to the gates of the hostel weeping loudly.  As Abraham rode the rail home, his own heart was aching and breaking.  “There is such suffering for my whole family because I preach the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he thought.  Abraham too wept bitterly, yet found comfort in the Lord after he yielded the matter to God’s care.

His daughter stayed and graduated from higher secondary school, then went back to enroll in seminary in the same city.  She graduated with two bachelor degrees, and God “turned the curse into a blessing,” because of His love for Abraham and his family. (Deut. 23:5)  Today, she’s added a counseling degree to her list of accomplishments and is working with her parents’ ministry in India.

Abraham meanwhile has been seeking the Lord regarding how to disciple the many young men and women who look to him for leadership.  Two couples just returned from India after teaching the first installment of WDA’s 28/20 discipleship process.  Please pray that God will lead and guide us as we seek to develop a strategic partnership in this land of mystery and miracle.

Two Men

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“Before all this,” the elder said, waving his weathered hands to indicate the tin-roofed shelter, the makeshift school, the large brick reservoir, “We did not even consider ourselves human beings. Now, we consider ourselves to be human beings.” The people beneath the shelter seemed bright-eyed, healthy, even joyful. Dozens of kids for whom education was previously impossible are now learning their ABC’s. A little church meets under the shelter. And the whole village has ready access to clean drinking water. The community carries a sense of dignity and communal identity that I perceive did not exist a few years ago. “Not only are you human beings,” replied Ash quietly through the translator. “You are children of God.”

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So I was thinking… how does Young Leaders International, a tiny discipleship ministry focusing on a just 5 Ghanaian “coaches” bring clean water, spiritual transformation, and a communal sense of personhood to 3 villages in northern Ghana?

Here’s how I see it from an outsider’s perspective.

A few years ago, an American with a deep sense of God’s love came to Ghana to love young leaders. Not a lot of leaders. Just a few. He came without a lot of strategies and agendas, but a firm belief that love was the strongest stuff in the universe. It was a risky bet and not every leader received love. But a few did. They started visiting villages, praying for strangers in hospitals, showing practical love in their communities, and loving other young leaders.

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When one coach visited a village and saw the cesspool that served as their water supply, his love made him cry. So YLI raised $12,000 and bought materials for a new water system designed by Ghanaians and built by the villagers. Then they did the same for 2 more villages. Their activity attracted other aid groups who built schools, clinics, even a playground!

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The village elders believe they received God’s love in a very tangible way and they want to share that love with others. So independently, they’ve planted churches and share their water with the Fulani tribesmen in their area: nomadic Muslim cattle-herders known for banditry, murder, and trampling crops with their herds. The village of Kpenchila says the love of Christ has helped them live at peace with their Muslim neighbors. One local Imam has even asked them to plant a church in his area, seeing the good the Christians are doing.

I told one village how I learned about the Fulani in college and began to cry. God spoke to me then about His love for the Fulani and I began praying for them each day. Later I lived in a Fulani town in Guinea for a month. I knew I might see a few Fulani on this trip, but didn’t expect to see so many. Fulani settlements are interspersed between these 3 villages and I got to encourage them to keep loving the Fulani. I believe they will do just that. And if the nomadic Fulani receive God’s love, then… well I have my own ideas on that.

So that’s how love goes viral. Ash says, “I sometimes have my doubts, but one thing I’m always sure about is love.” Right.

The Story of God’s Work in Pastor Katende Jeremiah Bulasio.

Young Katende was born in 1979 in a village and area in Uganda with a long history of witchcraft. Even before he was born, he was dedicated to the devil.  His training in witchcraft started around the age of 3 or 4 when his mother told him to take food to something she called his brother. When he got into the hut, it was a lion and he dropped the food and ran out. His mother forced him to go back in with more food. There were ceremonies in the home during which he changed. He was able to walk into fire and eat it without being burned. After this, he was given a case with a spear, a knife, and a bark cloth (hammered and stretched fig tree bark).

“The more they had evil meetings at home, the more I went deeper in serving the devil.”

He couldn’t succeed at school, being led out by spirits into the forest, often finding himself with snakes. He was then trained by superior witchdoctors to deal with the second class of spirits. They made him sit on a bark cloth and told him to get hold of whatever was sent to him…big snakes, lions, a python, with the aim of threatening him.  If he fled, he would be killed. He had to be bold and take hold of them. Whatever he got hold of disappeared into his body.  He was trained to be in control, but he was actually controlled and motivated by fear and threats.

The next level of training was done by evil spirits who took him into the forest for weeks at a time, teaching about 2,700 different herbs. With that knowledge, he would give people “medicine” that would get them what they wanted… a lover, for instance, whether that person loved them or not.

Power Failure

He was accustomed to his witchcraft being effective until eight young men came to him to get girls who were born again Christians.  This time, it didn’t work! When he inquired of the spirits about why it didn’t work, he was told that it would take another trick in order to trap them. This was first to abuse them in various ways. When the young men did that, it worked with seven of the eight girls.  They were overcome, but when Katende tried to overcome the eighth girl, although she cried, she said, “May God have mercy on you, may God have mercy on you”…no matter what things he did to her. This girl was used by the Lord to draw him to salvation.

In this, she was being like Jesus in his trial, “when they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2.23 This was the first step in breaking the power of evil in Katende’s life. His witchcraft was being disrupted!

“Surely the way God drew me in was incredible…”

He started to hear a voice telling him to go to her church. At first, he resisted but then thought it was the spirits telling him to go so he could get the girl who had become a problem in his practice of witchcraft. He went several times during the praise and worship. One time, he got annoyed as he perceived the preacher was minimizing the power of the evil spirits; so when he went home, he sent spirits to attack the pastor, but it backfired. After some days, when he went back to the church, he found himself laughing uncontrollably. They took him aside and prayed for him. He wondered about that and even told his parents and sisters that he was going to get saved. Right away, the evil spirits told him that if he got saved, he would die immediately.

He went back, having been told by the evil spirits that the Christians blow out the candles at a night prayer service. He expected to get the girl in the dark, but it wasn’t true; they didn’t blow them out. He heard that eighth girl saying, “Jesus is stronger than evil spirits.” He intended to go out but couldn’t move, calling the spirits to come and “rescue” him but they said, “We can’t come in because there is fire inside the church.”  The pastor and church members prayed for him and the spirits spoke saying, “Kasajja is coming and will swallow up all of you.” However, they continued to pray for him and one of his legs changed into the tail of a big snake. Some fled in fear but others continued praying, driving the evil spirits from him. When he came to his senses, they preached the Gospel to him but he was not yet ready to accept Jesus.  The following day, the spirits threatened that they would kill him and all the saved people.

This battle went on for a year, from the time he first went to the church, thinking he could get the girl who was causing him trouble. Still, this voice kept telling him to go to the church and he was still thinking it was the spirits, so he went again. However, this time, when the preacher called forward all those who wanted to get saved, he went forward and confessed; but it was another 2 months before he was able to bring everything he used for witchcraft to the church to get destroyed. During that time, he was still afraid to fellowship with them because he believed they would all die if he went back.

God’s perfect love casts our fear.

He knows now the importance of follow-up because they continued to come to him, showing him God’s patient love. He asked the pastor what would happen (to a believer) if he died. He was told that he would go to heaven. From that day, he went back to church, certain that he would die because the spirits told him so, but he was happy because he was going to heaven!

No one, even in his family, could touch the things he used for witchcraft without his command (or they would be beaten by the spirits). This was one motivating factor in his taking all of it to the church. The pastor stomped on them as the church members praised God. He was convinced that the pastor would be dead and he or others would become crazy in the next hour, but nothing happened! He found himself singing joyfully. They then took the things out to burn them.

Pastor Martin, who prayed for him also invited him to live at his home and mentored him for 6 years (1998-2004) before Katende Jeremiah started to work under the pastor/bishop he is now working with, David Kagoro.

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Katende Jeremiah, on the right, sharing his testimony.

His story wonderfully illustrates how God is the initiator in our salvation and in his mercy he uses believers to be agents of his transforming grace. It also clearly shows God’s power over evil.

The Bible declares that the devil is like a lion, prowling around, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5.8). The “devouring” and deception takes on a different face in a world that honors Science above all else. However, we are still drawn in by our fears and the desires of our hearts. We want what we want and will do whatever we think will get it at the cost of others and ourselves.

We all need the same powerful rescue  “from the dominion of darkness into the Kingdom of the Son He loves in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1.13,14)

Katende Jeremiah Bulasio is now a pastor with a pastor’s heart and desires to see others delivered from what he was born into. He is committed to Discipleship because he knows that communities can be transformed when believers are helped to mature into Christ-like character.

 

Consider praying for WDA’s International Training Team and partner with us by making a generous gift.

More information about our International Ministry can be found here.

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Brazil

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Hello! How are you? and God bless you!

From Brazil.

WDA in Brazil

Rio Tinto, Brazil is a city of about 25,000 with a huge catholic church right in the middle of town. The whole city spreads out around this very visible church. And in this city of Rio Tinto, there lives a very interesting man named Fernando Frincu.  One of the interesting things about Fernando is that, even though he lives in Brazil, he is Romanian. Fernando and his wife Carolina are associate staff members with WDA.

Everette Albrecht, who is on the WDA Equipping Team at Purdue University, has been to Rio Tinto about seven times over the years to teach discipleship principles. The pastors in that area were learning a lot about how to disciple others and in the course of their training, Everette starting teaching them about the importance of emotional healing. Just like everywhere else, the emotional needs are huge there and the pastors wanted to learn more.

So, in the summers of 2010 and 2012, Margo and Jack, from the WDA Restorative Team headed south with Everette, to teach and train about emotional healing and the importance of this in the discipleship process. They had the privilege of returning there again in August of 2013 for another three weeks and this is their report…..

Testimony of God’s Healing Work

Last year in Brazil, Margo had shared her own story of healing and redemption with some of the women. Talking about her struggles empowered the women there to open up their own hearts.

“One lady (Helen) came up and thanked me for sharing my testimony in Joao Pessoa. We had chatted with each other last year. She shared more of her story with me this year. God has brought healing in her life. She has asked her Pastor for permission to lead a Restoring Your Heart (RYH) group in her church.

M., another young lady with whom I met last year, told me that hearing my “history” had helped her in the healing process. Since I’d seen her last summer, M. had participated in a Restoring Your Heart group and as a result, had forgiven her father. She told me with a smile that she was going to buy a gift for him for Father’s Day! She also wrote him a letter to apologize to him and tell him she loved him. M’s father wrote her back and asked her for forgiveness as well!

A highlight of our time was hearing feedback from a group of men and women (in Rio Tinto) who had participated in RYH groups during the year since we had been there. Each person talked about what they had learned, their initial concerns, the benefits to them and their desire for more healing in their lives. They all plan to continue participating in RYH groups.”

The seeds planted over the last two years had already born much fruit!

Discipleship and Emotional Healing

One of Everette’s goals for this trip was to introduce church leaders and seminary students to WDA’s philosophy of ministry, in two new areas, Joao Pessoa and Campina Grande. Everette has such a gift for teaching and has a huge amount of experience training seminary students in both Mexico and Brazil.

Fernando, Carolina, Everette, Margo and Jack in Brazil
Fernando, Carolina, Everette, Margo and Jack in Brazil

The team was encouraged by the fact that Fernando and Carolina both have a strong vision for discipleship and emotional healing. Since one of WDA’s objectives is to train people in the countries we visit, Margo, Jack and Everette spent extra time this summer with Fernando and Carolina.  They were able to share more advanced training in both restorative and discipleship principles and practices. This will allow Fernando and Carolina to better train the people in their own community and thereby spread the process. We feel this is the best way to multiply the blessings of healing and growth. Fernando’s schedule will allow him to do future training both in Brazil and also in Romania and their contacts will open the doors for WDA to hold even more seminars in Brazil.

“We work so well as a team with Fernando and Carolina. They are so teachable and it is a joy to be in partnership with them. We are very blessed to have them on staff with WDA.”

 Next Step: Translation of Materials

With most of the objectives of this trip being accomplished, including forming a translation team to work on both discipleship and restorative materials, Margo, Jack and Everette are looking forward to returning again next August. They plan, among other things, to do seminars in three large churches in different parts of Sao Paulo, a city where news of God is desperately needed.

We ask that you would pray with us for the trip next year, for Fernando and Carolina and for the people of Brazil. Many of the areas we visit are very dark and very much in the stronghold of sexual sin. There is a huge need for healing there, both emotional and spiritual.

Note: It is expensive and time consuming to have WDA materials translated into other languages. If you would like to contribute financially to this effort or to the ongoing training in Brazil, please click the button below. Your donations will be gratefully received and used to advance God’s Kingdom.


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To find out more about the WDA International Ministry and all the amazing places we go, click here.  To find out more about the WDA Restoring Your Heart Ministry, click here.