Monday, 22 October 2012

Chapter Two

Three years ago I went to India on a missions trip that changed my life immensely. I had been depressed my whole life, I had very few friends, if any at all, I was bullied by my classmates, I wagged school and thought about suicide occasionally. My life was not in a good way, but worst of all, I didn’t know Jesus.

I had gone to church every week because my parents did, and I knew all the bible stories and who Jesus was, but I hadn’t owned my faith and made my own decision to follow him. I went to India and the sermon that I shared with the children there revolved around me telling them that Jesus wanted to be their friend, and when I realised that Jesus wanted to be my friend too; it broke my heart.

After I came home, I accepted Jesus, got baptised, and felt God calling me to ministry. My whole life changed. I was popular at school; everyone knew me and loved me. I was no longer shy and insecure. I became the guy that always put his hand up first. I sang, danced, and recited poetry in front of my year level at school. I was on top of the world.

Fast forward two years.

At the start of this year, things were pretty swell, and life was good. But slowly, throughout the year, that began to change. The workload at school got more intense, my subjects became more demanding, I began to get all kinds of weird illnesses and diseases, but worst of all; I started to feel empty inside.

Prayer didn't feel real to me, worship didn't touch me, and I had no emotion inside. I felt like a shell, hollow of any emotion or faith. In the back of my head I didn't want to let God go, possibly because I had already declared to all my friends and family that God was calling me to ministry.

But as the year went on, I felt God less and less. By the time I went to India I was so cynical and depressed I'd been avoiding school and wondering what the point of getting up in the morning was. I was definitely not in a good way.

I'd chosen a missions trip to India for my Major project in my Ministry subject at school, and I spent the entire year saving money, selling things I didn't need, and asking for sponsorships. I was able to get all the money I needed, and then some. While I was on the trip, we got stuck in immigration, I lost my passport, buckled and sprained my knee, lost my bible, all our train tickets were invalid, someone messed up our timetable, and I was just beginning to get sick again...

I broke down during a briefing halfway through the trip. I was bawling my eyes out and telling my team about how I did everything right, I knew all the facts in my head and I knew that God was real because of logic and science, but I felt nothing in my heart. I felt void of life and spirit.

It was right then that I heard God speak Psalm 23 into my life. It was like every part of that chapter was relevant to my life, and I felt uplifted. I spent a considerable amount of time up on the roof of the hotel we were staying in, crying like a baby and singing Psalm 23 as the sun set.

Things didn't get a whole lot better though. I began to feel anger and frustration towards my roommate in the team, who was also my mentor. My knee hadn't been healed no matter how much people prayed, and I had a major Theatre Studies performance as soon as I got back that would decide a third of my overall grade and study score that I wouldn't be able to do with a busted up knee.

It was the second last day of ministry. By this point I was pretty sick of India and I just wanted to go home, funny considering that after two there days I never wanted to leave. I was hot and bothered and my knee hurt. And we arrived at this huge youth rally with more than 350 people there. It was mind-blowing. The band started singing songs in English, and the band leader handed me a microphone. I was so honoured to be leading that many people in worship, let alone preach to them before that. We prayed for people to be healed at that rally and we saw a crippled boy walk for the first time in two years. Everyone in the village knew that boy as the boy who was carried around by his mum. He couldn’t even stand up on his own, but Nathan prayed for him for more than forty-five minutes, and that boy walked out of the room on his own two feet. The rally went off after that. We must have spent another half an hour just dancing and worshipping before lunch.

We went back to the same rally that night for the next session, and the faith had been lifted immensely. People had heard about what we had done and the number of people at the rally was so much more that people were spilling out the doors of the hall. After hearing about the boy, people came specifically to be healed. We prayed for so many people that night. We saw arms healed, legs healed, and so much more. We saw a boy hear and speak for the first time in his life, having been born deaf.

After we had prayed for everyone and healed everyone that put their hand up, it was another dance party. When Indians worship, they really worship. We sang one song for at least an hour, dancing with each other, jumping up and down, and going wild.

That was a pretty amazing day, and I was feeling a little better, but the next day (our final day of ministry) we went to the church of the pastor that organised the rally and it was the same thing again. Four and a half hours of prayer and worship, healings, deliverances, speaking in tongues and people being slain in the spirit.

The amazing thing though was the prophecies. I had so many; it was like all my prayers were in metaphors and riddles. And even though my emotions were still not full of love and joy, and I couldn't feel the spirit of God; amazing things were happening.

God spoke to me that night, and told me that he wanted me to be a Prophet. The whole year he had been testing me, trialling me, building up my faith for this. It was like God put the last piece of a puzzle down and I finally got to see the whole picture and what it meant for me.

Later that night we were discussing the events of the trip and when we looked back, we could see quite clearly that Satan had been trying to ruin our trip. Just before I left my life group leader told me that my cynical thoughts and depression could have something to do with the enemy, and all my prayers the week before we left were about Satan having no authority in India. And nothing bad that happened affected us in any significant way.

Before I left, I told my friend how hard it was to get a video camera from school to borrow, but finally got one, and he said to me "That has God written all over it. There is something he wants you to film." And I filmed the boy walking for the first time in two years, and the boy hearing for the first time in his life.
I finally understood what real faith was, after wrestling with the question all year.

I spoke to my mentor for hours and hours that final night; the one that I had been getting angry at because I found him frustrating to stay in a room with. Previously I had been ignoring him.

And most importantly, I finally understood that my emotions do not define me. I have the emotional intelligence of a three year old. I can't control my emotions, and they are so fragile and easily manipulated that they are all but worthless to my faith. But I knew that God was real in my head. And I used to hate that. I used to want to feel joy and peace and love in my heart when all I could feel were crickets chirping.

When I was quite young, I remember my mum saying that I had a gift of faith. At the time I didn't really get it, but that phrase stuck with me forever. There were times this year when I thought she was wrong, and didn't know what she was talking about.

I asked my life group: "Is it an act of faith to still believe God is real, even if you doubt him all the time and can't feel him, and don't have a relationship with him? Or is a lack of faith to doubt him in the first place?"

Now I know my answer.

I do have a gift of faith. Not because I always know without a doubt that God is with me and that God loves me. But because even when I don't believe that, I will never ever let go of the fact that there is a God somewhere.

This trip has changed my life, just like the last time I went to India. Three years earlier; I went to India on a missions trip. It was after that trip that I stopped being depressed, I made friends at school, I stopped wagging classes, I chose to become a Christian, I got baptised, and I heard God calling me to ministry.

That was the first chapter of my spiritual life.

After my second trip to India, I understood what faith really was, I understood that I was being tested, I learnt that I was made to be a prophet, and I finally understood what being a warrior of God really meant.

And so begins chapter two of my life.

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