Recently we finished four days of fruitful ministry with Redeemed of the Lord Evangelistic Church in Lwazi fishing village on Kavanyanja Island. The pastor of this newly formed congregation has recently joined our Island Leadership Network and her church graciously hosted us for a gathering of church leaders from the surrounding islands. Because of a present cholera outbreak on these particular islands, nearly 2,000 people had fled to the mainland as reports of lost lives caused panic in lakeshore villages that have inadequate toilet facilities and no other water source but Lake Victoria. While we knew our attendance would be down and with a touch of apprehension ourselves, we put our trust in Jesus and descended upon Lwazi with faith to work with God.
Upon arrival, we were surprised to find very few believers around and the church building under construction with only half of a roof! We discovered that an old friend of ours recently donated timber and iron sheets to form this new structure and the builders were busy putting on the “final touches” in preparation for our time of ministry. Though we began three hours late, there was no disappointment in the results—one man was saved during my introduction session, and the groups that followed were powerful times of encouragement for the believers who seemed to come out of nowhere to receive the Word of God. From this point until after we left the island the greatest-of-all-miracles (salvation) was repeated all day, every day—men and women continually coming to Jesus, offering Him their lives and receiving His pardon for their sins.
Our usually heavy pace of packing in six teaching topics as well as practical ministry to the community in three days gave way to an intentional attempt to impart love for dying people and a hunger for the power of the Holy Spirit. Our constant prayer is that those who hear from us would put everything we teach into practice and even pass it on to others, multiplying the impact of the Gospel in their region. Pains were taken on the second day to show each participant how to preach the gospel, gathering them into practice groups and sending them into the community to draw men to Jesus.
Every evening we would gather in the village square to preach Jesus to the people, with great results. I enjoyed playing the keyboard for these outreaches while our team handled everything from setup to programming to preaching to prayer to teardown. On our second night, one lady came forward for salvation before we even began the meeting. Othertimes people responded during an altar call, and still others came slowly afterward to talk to one of our pastors about what it really means to follow Jesus.
We began showing an interpreted copy of the Son of God film to a crowd of nearly 300 gathered in the center of town. Our system blared over the sound of a nearby movie house, indubitably showing some immoral flick to a couple dozen others in a dingy hall. The congregation we gathered sat and stood intently watching the story of Jesus even as large swarms of lake flies flooded the area and attached themselves to anything that had the appearance of light (such as my white skin!). But just as Pilate ordered Jesus to be scourged and he stepped up to the post, the movie dropped unexpectedly–our film show marking yet another failed attempt at graphically portraying the message of the cross to a distant shore. We sent the crowd away and promised to try again tomorrow to finish it out.
The next morning Moses and I sped away on the mission boat after breakfast to try to find another copy of Son of God. While we were gone the church gathered to hear about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, led by Pastor David Muyanja. He preached with fire that morning and after clearly expounding the Word of God on the matter, most of those gathered received the Holy Spirit in a service that lasted nearly five hours! By the time we returned with the movie, they were just exiting the place for lunch! One lady from the church manifested a demon during this time and slithered like a snake from the back to the front of the church structure. There she vomited many times as the leaders commanded the spirit to leave her. After some time she was completely set free!
That night as we watched the remainder of Son of God, a catholic lady approached one of our pastors for prayer. She wanted to be saved but was worried what the local priest and her fellow catholics would think if they saw her publicly receiving Christ during the crusade. As soon as hands were laid on her for prayer she went to the ground with a scream, violently thrashing around, the demons controlling her having many words to speak to our team of ministers. They worked on her for an hour during the final scenes of the movie, and she also vomited as individual spirits left her body at the name of Jesus. By the end of the film not only was Jesus resurrected, but His life was released to this precious lady who hadn’t wanted to be seen, but was definitely heard by the whole village!
As we prepared to depart on the final morning the entire church gathered on the shore to thank us for the work done and send us off with gifts of a roasted duck, bananas, and fresh fish. But the new believers present wouldn’t allow us to go without baptizing them in Lake Victoria, so some of our pastors came off the boat and we all began to sing songs of praise while they washed their sins away.
As we unloaded on the mainland an hour later Moses received a call from those who stayed behind that more people had come to receive Jesus as we were traveling away. This causes me great joy as our goal in these regional island events is not only for fruitful ministry while we are personally on the ground working in the Gospel, but that those who receive our teaching would do the same and teach others to do what Jesus did.
We’ve found a greater receptivity to the Gospel in out of the way places – villages that are not saturated by mass evangelism or ever visited by evangelistic teams – they seem to drink in the rain of the Word and every time we ask for a response it is exponentially greater than that of larger, more developed places where the church has been long established. This effort among more unreached peoples is key to our strategy for the future – the harder the place (more remote, less reached, spiritually dark, etc), the more fruit we expect to see from our Gospel efforts.