Monday, October 29, 2012

Excerpt from my journey home (charlotte)




Zion was not born while I was in Fortaleza and I sort of understand where he's coming from. Swimming everyday in a warm sea of placenta love, being fed, being outwardly cuddled and content. Birth is no easy task, it requires your body to work, it requires strain and it means leaving familiarity into another world which you know you are called to but quite can't yet see why or how. You're pushed out in faith, not knowing what's around the corner but knowing the steps you must take. I feel like I've been pushed out of the stomach of the Iris team. After 8 1/2 months of forming, being tested and refined in more ways than I know, I have been growing more into my identity in Christ. Sometimes it was uncomfortable in the belly of Iris, but mostly it was full of love; a paradise for growth and a safe place for failures and shortcomings. After 9 months of molding and forming it's time to be birthed into destiny. I know it's not easy but the greater glory is waiting on the outside. It may require pain and missing the safe inside but your family will meet you and continue to support you where you're at. Zion I know your timing is perfect, thanks for growing with me and teaching me so much already. Just letting you know, I understand where you're coming from. Love you fambam. xx

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Rachels story

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


Closing Seasons

So much has happened and is happening. To be honest I am not sure where to start with this, but I know I need to write it. I celebrated my 21st Birthday with my new family was totally blessed by them. Having spent my entire 20th year in Latin America with a group of crazy Jesus Lovers I am and have been truly honored!
To celebrate my birthday I Was able to go Hang Gliding over The famous Copacabana Beach In Rio De Janerio an experience I will forever treasure!
God is so good. I am so thankful for everything that has been going on. The good and the not so great.
The last thing I wrote to you all was about staying in the most dangerous favela in all of Rio. The time we had there was amazing! Getting the opportunity to pray for the drug lord leaders in the area, playing with kids, and getting to pray and prophecy over a very well know Brazilian reggae band at one of the best recording studios in Brazil.
That is all just a normal week in my life! My team has been going for 13 months now and I have been with them for just over 11 months of that time. The fastest moving year of my life. Full of wonder and unknowns. The biggest thing I have learned is you never know what is going on and to completely trust God that He does know and we have nothing to fear. That and how God is so much my best and most intimate friend as well as my husband and my father!
Uhhhh God is so good! I just want to scream it until someone hears me! I feel like God fills me with so much righteous anger sometimes that I don't know what to do with it. Anyways... To bring you up to date with how everything is going. The team while in Rio had a cooperate breakdown to say the least. We all, I would say, came to the conclusion it is all ending. And what does "finishing well" actually look like for us. It is not finishing every country, or finishing in one piece. Finishing well for us would mean being even more radically on fire for Jesus and remembering everything we have learned together this past year. As a team we recommitted out last few month of this trip to Him. Cutting off all things that would distract us from really finishing well in Him! For example a few of us have decided to cut out all movies for the duration of the trip, all negative speak, idol talk, and spending more time fasting and letting God tell us who we are in him! In one particular meeting we built a spiritual fire pit and threw out all the things that can take up our time in the day! As well as, throwing out things that will not bring anything good to our spirits. For our team it was an amazing time to really rest and enjoy each other only doing ministry as it came to us and realigning our focus and spirits on the true reason we are all here! Jesus!
A little over a week ago the team finally arrived in Fortaleza. After a 1,300 km drive over 2 days to Salvador where we stayed for 3 nights. Then another 1,100 km drive for 2 more days to make it where we are now at the Iris base in Fortaleza.
While In Salvador we went into the city to place where some of the first black slaves were brought over from Africa and sold. A place whose name literally means "the whipping post." We sat on the steps of this famous place and prayed as well as ministered to all the beggars and men and women trying to sale their jewelry to us. One woman saw us praying for other people came to us and asked if we were evangelicals we said yes even though we aren't really. She asked if we could pray for her because she had been on drugs since she was 15 and she wanted to get off of them so we stood and spoke into her life she teared up a bit and thanked us then she went on her way. People are so hungry for God and they just don't realize it.
In Fortaleza we arrive at the Iris church where we are able to camp out and minister all at the same time.
After 2 nights we move into this amazing mansion that is basically being given to Iris here. The rent is less than what most people pay for a cheap apartment in the states. They should be paying about 7,000 more than the land lords are charging. We are able to bless Iris here by cleaning it, painting it, helping the leaders (a married couple and their 1 year old) move in and blessing them with our practical services. It's nice to do practical things every once in a while, you get almost instant results. Along with the practical things we ministered with the iris team to the red light district. Going out around 10pm to the streets to share the love of God with the prostitutes, lady boys, pimps and drug addicts. Those times are always amazing. The iris base also having a prayer how in the center of a neighboring favela gave us a lot of opportunity intercede for the city and Iris. As well as Ministering in the favela doing house visits seeing many people healed of illnesses. One night we were even asked to speak in a 3 month course that YWAM holds for Brazilians that have a heart call to missions.
We had a time of question and answer as well as sharing our hearts and why we have chosen to live the way we do. At one point a girl in the very back row raised her hand and said "I am amazed." to this the whole class of about 40 or 50 people laughed, but she continued. "No I am serious you all take the Bible so literally and actually live out what it says." We responded with a little chuckle and said "well... yea." After about 5 minutes of us talking people began to cry and by the end not one person was left with dry eyes. Holy spirit had fallen so heavily on the group of people we just began moving around the room ministering to everyone. That had nothing to do with us. That was totally God using our lives to convict the hearts of so many others to live in full trust in God. Many times we do not realize the impact of the way we live because to us it is just life. But when we really sit back and talk about the craziness that we live in on a daily bases we realize truly how amazing it is and can only be by the grace of God! Now we are still here in the mansion and everything is crazy. Because the end of our journey together as a family is coming to such a rapid end and most people would like to Make it home for the holidays. Everything seems a bit rushed and unnatural. People are a bit emotional because of this. We all as a whole could use much prayer in this time just so we hear what God is saying to us and we are not making decisions based on our emotions. 8 people have already left for Manaus the city in Amazonia district on the amazon river here in Brazil. The rest of us are waiting on Zion our leaders baby to be born and join our team so we can all be together again one last time before we all go our separate ways. Some of us finishing off the rest of the countries others going home, but hopefully the majority will be meeting back up for the Caribbean in the first week of January. To Top it all off we are saying good by to our 4 beloved vehicles ; Council and Might, Open Heaven, New Wine, and Over Flow. These 4 giant America vehicles have driven all the from Washington state to here in Brazil! Solely by the Grace of God. They have been our constants, our homes, our beds on many a night, and our one place of normalcy. They have carried us for many many miles. However, it is now the end of our journeys with them and we are hopefully, if the government allows us, gifting them to our family here at Iris.
Things are changing and I still have not heard where the end of this chapter is for me, but God knows and I have no reason to stress about it now. I feel complete peace in this and I know God will not leave me stranded! Please keep us in your prayers especially in really critical times like this. I thank God everyday for my new family and this journey of a life time he is and has carried me on!
This is all I have to share for now. I hope this finds you all in good health. If there is anything I can be praying for you about let me know! My family and I would love to press in for you. Much Love and Many blessings Rachael Michelle

Caitlins update

Monday, August 27, 2012


Bolivia: Poverty, Power, and Pig Fat

Witchcraft, demonic superstitions, abysmal roads, and the worst poverty in South America…welcome to Bolivia. My team kicked off our time in our seventeenth country with a shaky border crossing that foreshadowed our Bolivian days to come. The Americans on the team were not able to get visas in advance before busing to the border and decided to risk getting denied entry into the country. Upon arrival at the border “station”, we saw nothing more than a dry, dusty plot of land, a shack with a Bolivian man who stamped passports inside, and a tiny house that probably belonged to the man. Immediately, us Americans were reprimanded for not previously obtaining a visa and shoved to a line on the side of the shack. Kimmie and I went to explore the field to find a place to go to the bathroom, and the border official yelled at us to turn around, afraid we were about to make a run for it and cross by foot. We reluctantly followed orders and waited with the rest of the team for quite a long time. Eventually, the border official said he could issue only three visas for a lucky trio of Americans, and the rest of us would have to continue on our bus illegally and work our way towards a migration office hours from the border the following morning. Confused, three team members received the stamps while the rest of us entered as illegal aliens for the following twenty-four hours.

We got back on our bus, and within an hour, we’d already gotten stuck on a sandy road. The warnings about poor infrastructure quickly proved to be true. The men got out to push while the girls were asked to stand in the back right corner and jump over the tire when instructed. After quite some time, the bus emerged from the sand, and we continued on our journey. We were off to an interesting start…

We finally arrived in the city of Villa Montes and spent the night there. In the morning, we spent hours getting our paperwork sorted, and $135 dollars later, we were allowed legal entry. I tried to not worry about the overwhelming expenses of the trip and focus on what God had called me to do. Little did I know, finances would be the least of my worries while in Bolivia.

Bolivia possesses a deep beauty; however much of the country is sadly overrun by witchcraft and demonic practices. As soon as our team entered the nation, we began to feel the effects. It began in Villa Montes with Nicole being physically attacked by a demonic presence. She felt like she was being stabbed by a knife in her chest. The attack lasted for a long time, but when she started praying against it, it finally left.

The following morning, our team headed to a village called Caprendita where Tanya’s cousin Angela had lived for years. Angela, a tiny and timid blond woman, lived alone in an indigenous community and traveled to surrounding villages to run children’s programs and share the gospel. Her Spanish was impeccable, and she had learned how to speak the tribe’s mother tongue as well. Her knowledge and dedication to the culture was remarkable.

Angela let us know that the tribe believed in many demonic traditions and was ruled by fear. They believed in “land owners”--demons that ruled the rivers, the trees, the land, etc. Some of the tribe believed in Jesus as well; however they believed the land owners were more powerful than Christ and mixed witchcraft with Christianity. Fear ruled the region so heavily that women even believed superstitions such as imminent death if they visited the river while on their menstrual cycles. As soon as we arrived in Caprendita, I could feel the darkness and oppression. Exhausted from not sleeping enough during the journey, I took a nap as soon as we arrived. For the first time in my life, I encountered a demon in my dreams. In my dream I said, “We don’t need to pray. The spiritual oppression isn’t that strong here. We don’t need to bother.” Then I saw a white mist-like creature at the foot of my bed that looked like a ghost. I tried to scream but couldn’t. I began to pray to Jesus, and I woke up.

Throughout my entire time in Caprendita, I felt like I was literally under attack. One night, while desperately trying to get some quite alone time, I went in my tent to listen to music. Yet moments later, I began to feel like something was stabbing me in the chest, just as Nicole had. I immediately ran outside to find my teammates, and they prayed for me until it left me. Many of my teammates had similar experiences, but we refused to live in fear. We believe that God has adopted us into His family and given us all love and authority in Christ Jesus.

My teammates preached at the local church to explain this very concept to the tribe. We told them they didn’t need to fear the so-called “land owners.” They didn’t need to be slaves to religious practices or demonic superstitions. They were loved by God and could simply receive as sons and daughters and walk in the authority that Jesus Christ had given them through the Holy Spirit. Many people said they had no idea about these truths and were excited to know they could live in freedom.

The day we left Caprendita, I noticed that the water in the tap shut off. I later found out from Angela that the whole area had been in a terrible drought, and there was normally no water at her base. However, the water tanks had mysteriously filled up as soon as our team arrived, supplying just enough water for our time in the village. When we left, it dried up again. Angela said there was no explanation for such a miracle other than a blessing from God. Water had never appeared and disappeared like that before.

After our time in Caprendita, we bused to Entre Rios, a city about six hours away on terrible windy roads through mountains and steep cliffs. From Entre Rios, we split into several groups of five people and traveled to remote villages with local pastors to minister for the next few days. By the time we left, I was so physically exhausted that I headed to the next bus barely holding back tears. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d slept well, the last time I’d been clean, or the last time I felt truly rested. I was completely overwhelmed by the thought of heading to a remote village with zero fuel in my tank and didn’t think I had enough strength in me to do it. However, I remembered how powerfully God had come through when I was at the end of my rope in Peru and declared out loud that the same thing would happen in this next village.

Hours later, Stephen, Breck, Kelly, Katherine, and I were dumped on the side of a dusty road in the middle of nowhere La Cueva with a local pastor named Adel. With half my life strapped to my back, I began the trek to Adel’s family house. Partway through, we stopped to take off our shoes and walk through some water, then continue with sandy feet and heavy packs.

We finally arrived at Adel’s in-laws house and were greeted by Lucilla, the sweetest woman in Bolivia. She offered us some tea and bread, then began to prepare a chicken we’d eat later on. Stephen encouraged Katherine and I to help Lucilla pluck the chicken, and I held back the urge to gag as I ripped feathers out of the rubbery bird. Lucilla informed us that she had problems with her stomach and couldn’t eat more than one meal a day. She also had terrible headaches. Both conditions had lasted for about two weeks. In addition, Lucilla had had a tingling sensation in her leg for a long time that made it constantly feel heavy and asleep. We prayed for her, and right away, everything was healed! She began rejoicing and crying, thanking God for healing her.

The next day, we hiked through the village and visited several homes with Adel. We found out that Adel worked in Entre Rios during the week as a carpenter and spent every weekend traveling to La Cueva, often with his wife and son, and visited houses to share the word of God. He also organized church services on Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons. La Cueva still didn’t have its own church building, but the community found alternate places to gather for the time being. We accompanied Adel on his normal travels, amazed at his faith and dedication.

Each home greeted us with open arms, warm hearts, and TONS of food. In three days, I ate more than I normally eat in a week. In Bolivian village culture, it is considered extremely rude to not finish everything that is put on your plate, which really put my stomach to the test. Every time we arrived at a home, the residents wanted to feed us, even though we’d been fed by the previous home. We prayed for several people within the village, each prayer accompanied by a meal, snack, or drink. Secretly, I was praying I wouldn’t throw up any of the food that had been so kindly served me.

The following day, we continued visiting homes but trekked further into the village. The views as we walked were breathtaking. We hiked through green hills of farmland, occasionally walking next to cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, etc. Vast fields covered the region like a beautiful emerald blanket. After trekking through the fields, we had to cross a river to get to the other half of the community Adel normally visited. We took off our shoes, rolled up our pants, and traversed the freezing cold river to get the other side and continued to visit people.

We spent quite a bit of time with a woman named Feliza. Her husband was an alcoholic, and her family claimed to have seen much saw demonic activity happening at the house. Feliza’s mother-in-law was involved with witchdoctors, and a witchdoctor had cursed the house eighteen years ago.

We decided to pray over the entire house and pray for God’s presence to fill Feliza’s home. We slept there overnight and asked Feliza how she felt in the morning. She told us that she’d dreamt of a white snake in the night. Its tail had been cut off, and he said he was angry, because he could strike no longer.

Later that day, we visited a few more homes and then went to a large farmhouse for a church service. I hadn’t slept well and didn’t know how I would function through an entire service. I started to feel nauseous from lack of sleep, and when we got to the farmhouse, we were greeted with slabs on dead pig piled atop corn and potatoes. The pork was a mixture of meat, skin, huge blobs of fat, and pieces of fur mixed in. The amount of carbs alone made me gag as I tried to force it all down; the hog carcass did not make things better. Stephen was a hero, choking down so much skin that I gagged just watching him. Breck joked about making a sacrificial move for the sake of others and face-planting with his plate in hand. This would allow him to lose his food while Katherine, Kelly, and I made a run for the trash during the distraction. We laughed as we planned the maneuver, but in the end, we sucked it up and choked down all of our food.

After our pig feast, we worshipped with our friends we’d made throughout the last couple days and shared with the tiny congregation. I stood up to speak, Stephen beside me translating. Midway through sharing, a chicken jumped off the table and almost struck me in the face. I yelped and grabbed Stephen as both of us, as well as the entire congregation burst into giggles. “I’m sorry,” I laughed, as I watched the giggling faces of this farming community. “I’m not used to having chickens at church with me!” This was a far cry from my church in California.

After surviving church on the farm, a woman named Gregoria pulled us aside for prayer. We’d met her the day before, and she said that she had a serious offense with one of the other women in the church. She constantly felt depressed and wanted to leave La Cueva. When your entire community is only thirty people, one broken relationship means serious trouble. Gregoria also complained of pain in her stomach, and after we prayed for her, she was healed. However, we knew she needed more than physical healing; she needed restoration in her heart. Juliana, a lady we’d met during out first day, came and stood beside Gregoria; and I realized she was the woman with whom Gregoria had offense. The two women confessed their wrongdoing to us and apologized to each other, hugging, and weeping into one anothers’ arms.

Afterwards, Juliana asked for private prayer and told us that she had lots of hurt in her heart. She felt far from God and wasn’t able to receive His love or her husband’s love. We talked to her for a long time and took her through a process of emotional healing and identity. We spoke and prayed identity over her. Juliana shared that she had a dream that God was forming her into a person. He put a white dress before her, and she said, “What a beautiful dress. I want to wear it.” However, she didn’t think she was good enough. Then she heard a voice say, “I will put it on you.” She realized the dress was for the marriage supper with Christ (a very significant part of the Bible where Jesus unites with his “bride” a.k.a. the church). We told Juliana she was hearing from the Lord and didn’t need to worry that she was far from Him or unloved. She began to realize how powerfully God was speaking into her life and decided to receive both His love and love from her husband. Her face lit up, and she walked away from the farmhouse, looking and feeling lighter. Joy genuinely was radiating from her.

At the end of the day, we walked back towards our house to pack up, go to bed, and leave early the next morning. The thought of waking up at the crack of dawn sounded like torture. But at just the right time, God blessed us with a random man who stopped us on the road and said he was on his way to Entre Rios. He offered to give us a free ride if we could be ready in five minutes. We excitedly and quickly packed, said our goodbyes to Adel’s beautiful family, and jumped into the car.

The next day in Entre Rios, we reunited with the rest of our team and swapped stories of our time in the various villages. Each group had amazing testimonies of God’s healing, faithfulness, and goodness. Some of us walked to the city market and bumped into some people from the La Cueva community who had decided to come into the city. It was odd but fun to bump into people we recognized from the village. The man who lived in the farmhouse where we’d had the church service told us that the La Cueva community had been very discouraged prior to our visit. Yet, he gladly shared that the residents were now extremely encouraged because of our time with them.

I remembered how burned out and exhausted I had felt before busing into La Cueva. I’d had nothing to offer, but God had come through. I knew that such a quick and significant change in the community had nothing to do with anything I or my teammates could have accomplished on our own. God had simply showed up in a moment of human weakness and shown his incredible strength and love when I had no strength of my own. In just a couple days, I had seen countless people physically, spiritually, and emotionally healed. This beautiful farming community had shifted from thoughts of despair to feelings of encouragement and hope. And as I was a part of this community’s transformation, I went through the same change in my own heart. I no longer felt weary and weak. Instead, I felt rejuvenated by the love of God and full of hope, joy, peace, and pig fat. J

Caitlins story

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Brazil: Our Crazy Life of Contrast


Just over a year ago, I hopped in a pick-up truck with three old friends, two bags, a bit of cash and my passport. We drove to a church in Los Angeles where I met up with the original members of the Iris Latin America team. I transferred my luggage from my friend’s truck to the team’s large green SUV, a vehicle that would soon become the closest thing I had to a home.

I said goodbye to my friends and drove off with a group of strangers. When I looked out the window at the streets of California, I still saw home; but when I looked at the people sitting next to me, I felt a million miles away.

Now, a year later, these people have become my family. This September, we celebrated our “team-iversary” of one year on the road. We travel together, minister together, eat together, work out together, and hang out together. We share everything—food, space, tears, money, beds, sickness, and laughter. We’ve grown to around thirty people, and it’s not uncommon to squish all of us into sleeping quarters meant for ten or less. We all know who has the wildest morning hair, who snores the loudest, who takes the longest in the bathroom, and who will be the crankiest without coffee. We love each other through the car breakdowns, the miracles, the adventures, and through the mess.

Originally, we planned to complete our entire journey in eleven months. Now, over a year later, we are just working our way up the coast of Brazil. We still have four more countries to travel within South America, not to mention the islands of the Caribbean. I’d be lying if I said this trip wasn’t a bit more than I had bargained for. Mentally, I had set my mind to invest just a year’s worth of time, energy, travel, finances, physical discomfort, etc. Yet, here I am with many months ahead, at times tired from the past but more determined than ever to finish the trip and to finish it well.

As I reflect upon the past twelve months, it is hard to believe all the craziness I have seen and experienced—both the good and the bad. I have seen deaf ears opened, uneven legs grow even, a woman walking out of a wheelchair, and cancer healed. I have stepped foot on seventeen countries. I have traveled by, car, bus, train, motorhome, ferry, canoe, foot, and taxi. I have slept in cars, on top of cars, on the floor of an old bar, many church floors, the beach, sex motels, tents, a jungle hut, a pop-up camper, an RV, nice hotel beds, disgusting hostel beds, strangers’ homes, and more. I have been to the beach, the jungle, the mountains, the dumps, the slums, and the nicest parts of some of the most amazing cities in the world.
The immense contrast that I experience every day is one of the most mind-blowing facets of this journey. Months ago, one of my team members joked that whether we were told we were sleeping at a five-star hotel or on a cement floor, we would have the same reaction. Neither would surprise us.

Our time in Brazil has been a continuation of striking contrast and constant adjustments. This diverse country is a fascinating mix of buzzing city life, gang-polluted ghettos, fetid dumps, and stunning stretches of nature. We began our time in Brazil in the region of Cabo Frio, a coastal area outside of Rio de Janeiro. Carol (a Brazilian who joined our team in Chile) grew up in Rio state, and her family generously hosted all thirty of us at their Cabo Frio home.

Carol excitedly welcomed us to her city and arranged opportunities for us to bless her church and friends. One afternoon, she brought a group of us to visit a Christian rehabilitation center for men. Each man had a different story, but it seemed as if most had been homeless or addicted to drugs at some point before coming to the center. The residents greeted us with huge smiles and proudly offered us an elaborate meal that included a special type of chicken that is only served on special occasions. Humbled by their generosity, we enjoyed the delicious lunch then went to the center’s chapel to worship with the residents. Most of the men were voraciously hungry for the presence of God. The rehab center was in a pretty isolated location, so the men were very excited to have visitors come who shared their faith. The worship service was open and informal; it didn’t feel like a rehab center but more like a family simply seeking God together.

Several people went up front to share words of encouragement, and we offered to pray for each individual afterwards. One older man sitting in front of us had been a gang leader and murdered many people before coming to the rehab center. He’d ended up in a wheelchair, which I assume was the result of being shot during his gang days. A couple people prayed for him, but he was generally unresponsive. Taylor disregarded his cold demeanor and boldly went in for a hug. As he embraced this man, something changed. I caught a glimpse of both Taylor and the man, arms wrapped around each other. Several minutes later, I saw that they were still hugging, both now weeping as well. I didn’t know what was happening, but I could clearly see that it was something powerful. The old man’s heart was suddenly softening, and he began to cry out to God with desperation. After a while, he let go of Taylor and raised his arms toward heaven, cheering and loudly praising Jesus.

We later found out that literally the night before, this very man had said he wanted to leave the rehab center and declared that he hated God. He had dealt with aggression all his life and only knew how to fight. However, he didn’t know how to resist love. Instead of coming against his malevolence with aggression, Taylor confronted him with love. His warm hug melted away the anger and hurt, and this once bitter man was radically filled with the love of God.

Later that week, a small group of us drove about two hours outside of Cabo Frio to meet up with members of a new church plant to minister in the red-light district of their city. At one or two in the morning, we walked the streets looking for prostitutes and transvestites. I saw a scantily-clad woman approach a car and lean in to talk to the driver. After conversing for a moment, she lifted up her mini-skirt to prove to the potential customer that she was an authentic woman. The man approved, and she walked around the front of the car, opened the passenger’s seat and drove off. As I watched the car disappear, I wondered how that woman felt and how scary it would be to know you were about to sell your body to a stranger.

Moments later, a group from my team approached a transvestite whose street name was “Sabrina.” All prostitutes are massively disrespected, but the transvestites in this area were met with particular disdain. They were so hated by some of the public that men would often drive through the red-light district and kill the transvestites. While my teammates talked with Sabrina, some men with guns drove by on a motorcycle. The people from the church plant later explained that the men would probably have shot Sabrina if he were alone on the street corner. Because my teammates and the church members were surrounding him, the men with guns backed off. My teammates asked to pray for Sabrina, and he asked that they would use his real name, Junior, when they prayed. “Sabrina” was just a character he played to make money, but he wanted prayer for his true self—the man Junior that was inside of him.

After a beautiful week of ministering in Cabo Frio, we turned up the intensity a bit more and entered the heart of Rio’s slums. Our second favela, or slum, was called Parada de Lucas--a dark area run by drug traffickers and gangsters. Carol got in touch with the director of a YWAM base in the favela and said we were willing to spend three nights at their base. The director explained that this was a bleak place, and no one ever wanted to visit. Carol said our team was called to the darkest places and was fully prepared to come. Days before we arrived in the favela, the director contacted Carol to confirm that we really were coming. He said every group always ended up bailing; they all got afraid and gave up on the favela. His voice cracking, he assured Carol, “I don’t blame you if you guys back out. Everyone does. I understand if you don’t come to visit us; I really do.” But standing firm in what she’d agreed, Carol promised the director that our team would keep our word and visit his base.

Two YWAM staff greeted us at a parking lot in the city and escorted us to the barren YWAM base which would become home for the next few days. At first glance, I wasn’t sure how we would all fit inside. The guys were instructed to sleep in the hallway or on the roof. The girls slept on the floor of a few small bedrooms on the second floor. My room had no electricity and no door. The bottom floor of the building had a tiny kitchen and one toilet that didn’t flush. Thirty people, days without showering, one non-flushing toilet, and tight sleeping quarters…you do the math.

Any time we left the base, we were escorted by locals who had a relationship with the drug lords in order to keep us safe. The streets were filled with the stench of weed and gang members who carried walkie-talkies to communicate with other gangsters and drug lords---the “protectors” of the favelas. Fireworks constantly went off as a signal to warn people of the police’s presence. The locals were accustomed to the fireworks and used them to gauge when to get out of the streets. Clashes between police and gangs often erupted.

One day, our team had the opportunity to speak at two different schools within the favela. We acted out a couple dramas for the kids and spoke at a school assembly for children aged six and up. I talked to them about dreaming big, the constant interruption of fireworks bursting in the distance. Some of the kids laughed when they went off; others didn’t react at all. They were completely desensitized to the gang war going on around them. As I looked at the children, I thought about the drug lords and gangsters I’d seen in the favela and how these kids could grow up to become the same. I imagined the gang leaders as innocent children and wondered when their turning points had been.

It’s crazy, because no matter where I’ve gone, I find that kids are kids, even in the craziest of circumstances. After we spoke at the school assembly, Carol asked the children if they wanted to ask us any questions about anything. A brave volunteer raised her hand and asked, “Do you like cake?” Ahh, the beautiful innocence and oblivion that exists in the mind of every six-year-old. Though we’d talked about more serious topics and there was a clear war going on inside her neighborhood, all her little mind wondered at that moment was whether or not we liked cake. I was reminded of the purity and innocence that every child is born with and saddened to know that it was only a matter of time before this little girl would be corrupted by the world outside of her. It seemed impossible for such a na├»ve child to turn into something so evil. Remembering that the gang leaders and traffickers had once been something so innocent and pure broke my heart for them. They had simply been tainted by a corrupt system and were unable to find an escape. Though they tried to intimidate others with fear, I know fear and manipulation actually marked their lives and had trapped them in a system that the deepest places in their hearts probably didn’t actually want to be a part of.

After a few days of intertwining our lives with this twisted system, our team left the favela, many questions buzzing in our minds. I wished we could have magically stopped gang violence, drug trafficking, and corrupting children in the snap of a finger. I felt overwhelmed by the darkness and hopelessness I’d seen in the favela. But then I remembered the gang leader in the rehab center whom Taylor had embraced until he began to cry out to Jesus and weep tears of repentance and love. There is still so much I don’t understand, but I DO know that no one can resist 100% genuine love.

On our way out of the favela, three people from a local Iris church joined up with our team and brought us to their ministry in Rio before I’d even had a chance to wrap my brain around the past few days. This trio visited garbage dumps in Rio every weekend to play with children, visit families, and often play films in the middle of the dump. The three volunteers said no one ever wanted to come participate in their ministry, and it was a dream come true to have thirty people willing to come with them to the dumps.

They escorted us to a dump about a half hour from the favela. Thirty minutes brought us to an entirely different world. Piles of garbage were surrounded by winding dirt roads and shacks where families lived. No Portuguese needed, I started kicking a soccer ball around with a little boy in the street, and others soon joined in. Moments later, one of the little boys started chasing me down the dusty street with a chicken as I screamed and he giggled uncontrollably.

Later, my teammates and I made house visits with the volunteers leading us. The children from this neighborhood excitedly followed us from house to house, as we greeted different families and prayed for them. Along the way, I found a little boy who’d gotten hurt and stood in the street crying. I grabbed him and held him in my arms until his tears stopped. Whenever I tried to put him down, he lifted his feet and wouldn’t touch the ground. The atmosphere reminded me so much of Africa—kids freely roaming the streets, playing soccer, jumping into the arms of strangers with smiles and trusting hearts. A piece of my heart felt at home in that place.

After a while, one of the girls who’d brought us to the dump said she was taking us to her family’s extra apartment where we could rest for a few days. I wondered what kind of family had the money to have an “extra” apartment for guests and later found out this volunteer was actually a famous Brazilian bikini model. She also happened to be the daughter of Pepeto, one of the most famous soccer players in Brazil who had basically won the World Cup for the Brazilian team in the nineties. Turns out, some famous Brazilian models happen to love Jesus and hang out in the garbage dumps in their free time.

I had to take a moment to reflect on all that had happened in just one day. My morning had started in the gang-infested favela; then I transitioned to an African-style dump. And, oddly enough, the evening ended with a famous bikini model taking my team to her gorgeous apartment in one of the most posh parts of the city. This type of day is an accurate reflection of the strange but beautiful contrast I have experienced throughout the last year. I never know what is coming next; sometimes it’s hard, but it’s all part of the adventure. As my team and I work our way up to the northern region of Brazil, I’m sure many more surprises are in store. Please pray for the endurance and grace to receive every situation well and finish the continent in victory

more Testimonies

Jesus Saves In The Slums of Rio

A really cool testimony: we were in a slum in Rio, Brasil not too long ago. Most of the guys were sleeping up on top of a roof of a ywam base there. One of our girls Nicole was up there looking down on the street we were living on and saw a group of a couple of boys who were always hanging out there looking to get a glance at all the foreign women who happened to move in next door to them!! Ahaha. She told me they were flirting with her and I did hear them say they wanted her to be their girlfriend, as did some of the girls to me during that time. These teenagers were longing for true affection; they just did not know it yet.
This is the biggest slum in all of South America! 500,000 some people!
Nicole came over to me and said lets go talk to those kids! I wanted to go read my Bible some place and did not even really want to go out on the street at that moment, haha, but I did anyway. We went down there and engaged with 2 of the boy’s specifically, who were really listening to what we had to say. We started to just share the gospel of Jesus to them with power. At the end of it we wanted to simply in a very non religious way, just invite them into Christ. Before we did that, I laid down the implications of what it really meant and how they were losing their old life and becoming co crucified with Christ through this confession of Him as Lord. I wanted it to be a holy, serious thing. They still wanted to receive Him and give their lives to Him. Apparently one of their girl friends over heard most of what we were saying and came over wanting Jesus too! So all three of them right there put their hands out as if they were receiving a gift, indeed they were. We prayed with them. The boy who I think was the chief offender in hollering at Nicole specifically was about to be touched by Holy Spirit. We felt to release His baptism of fire over them. So they allowed us to lay hands on them again. We put our hands right on his head and called it forth. The presence of God came on Him so strong he stumbled backwards with NO help from us. I absolutely despise faking or manipulating manifestations of His presence, this boy was getting floored by the weight of Holy Spirit’s fiery love. He looked up at us, with this, “Wow” look on his face. Yep. Wow. That’s my pursing Bridegroom Jesus right there on display through weak, but willing vessels! Thank You Jesus for saving. You are mighty and holy alone! The Lord brought these young ones to Himself! Bom Jesus!
So Brent Moose Lough and I were going out for some morning juice at this bomb juice station in the center of Manaus and I see a guy with a cane walking towards us. Well we are becoming Love, faith works through love, so we stepped out in faith in our vast supply of Portuguese and asked this dear fellow what the problem was. He pointed to his ankle, he was in pain and it hurt to put weight on it, and he could not fully rotate it normally. The healing grace and fire filled presence of Jesus started to manifest on his ankle. He said, “It’s warm”! We commanded all pain to leave and for the ankle to be fully restored and fully mobile again. I then took his cane for him and asked him to walk next to me to test it out by putting a little weight on his ankle. All the pain left and he could move it around in a way he has not been able to for 2 years he said! Gloria Deus! He was walking without his cane. I hugged on him and gave him back his cane! haha.

All the while as we were praying for him this lady notices that this guy, Jose, is getting healed. She stops and almost like she is waiting in line for a touch tells us she has pain in her neck and shoulder. We laid hands on her, she felt heat, all the pain left. She tested it out by rotating and moving her shoulder. It was all gone! She smiled with joy and said thanks and simply walked away. We don’t want to be remembered anyway. Come on Jesus!

Burning One

My portion is to dwell in everlasting burnings. In the everlasting burnings there is a fullness of grace and intensity that is impossible to put out or step outside of. Once you fully give yourself to the Burning One in this way your destiny is sealed. Part of your identity before Him and in Him will be forever inescapble: one who burns in holy, violent flames of undying love and desire for God in the ever increasing same measures as Jesus does for His Father.
There is a reason grace supplies us with the ability to “fan in to flame” the gift of the fire of His love on the inside. I actually do this as a prophetic act in the natural and it translates from the spirit straight into my present reality. Holy Spirit breathing fire in me and over me is one of the constant modes of operation He moves in on my behalf: the fire sets me free to burn wholly in desire for the Man full of grace and truth whose eyes are like flames of fire towards me. In doing this He gives me His eyes and makes my eyes single for Him through that release, and thus my WHOLE body continuously becomes full of His light which is a direct result of His fire that produces light, heat, and Holy Spirit divine enabling energy.
This kind of burning kills your flesh and ignintes your spirit man to love without limits. My experience is to burn in love with holy fire for Jesus yet not be destroyed by it but be consumed through it.
Burning for Jesus,
From Rio de Janeiro,
Ben

Holy Spirit Shows up in town Plaza in Brazil

 

Holy Spirit Plaza Party in Brazil (Part I)!

One night as we were passing through a town to get into northern Brasil we stopped to stay the night. We went out to get something to eat. Taylor L. is down by the entrance of this square like plaza where we were eating at. I walked down there and he walks by me and says, “Bro, come prophesy with me over these young people”. I honestly was tired but said sure I will. The Kingdom is never a matter of feeling it or not feeling it. I believe that is a key reason why the American church for the most part is sleeping in apathy and making constant agreement with powerlessness; we need to break and overcome this in America, that the sleeping ones actually would awake and THEN because of our response to Jesus’ love and glory His glory begins to shine in FULL measure (Eph.5). I know this is a prophetic call in this hour to release renewal and awakening in the Kingdom of God that truly is a matter of power not speech (ICor.4:20). Holy Spirit wash us in Your regenerative flood of renewal again in America! Faith is never dependent on an emotional experience though when we are faithful with the little He rewards us with more; He is always rewarding those who diligently seek Him (Heb.11). I am never looking for more gifts, I already have them all. Haha. He alone, Himself, is my shield and exceedingly, abundant, GREAT Reward! When we are living from the place of the One Thing that is actually needed in this hour, then we are fully protected as He is our shield even before He becomes our magnificent desire and Reward in all things!

Back to the testimony: so Taylor and I head over there at first with no translator with us, we just asked their names and tried to start up some small talk in our extremely broken Portuguese. All of these guy’s names there were so powerful, there was a James, a John I think, and a Patrick. We know there was such a saintly call on all of them and this was the night God had chosen to really call them forth in their Christ given identity.

Those names actually remind of this guy David and I chased down a long street in Santiago, Chile. He had a crutch and was limping. Seeing that was enough for me to know that if I made myself available with the fullness of the Kingdom living in me, it would actually show up because I showed up! That is Rolland Baker’s three keys to preaching, he is the founder of Iris along with Heidi Baker. Show up, Be on time, Come with a clear mind. Haha. I love the simplicity of being in Jesus, and that my friends is the one thing the enemy will always come and try through his craftiness to distract your THOUGHTS from (II Cor.11). As a man believes and thinks in his heart and mind so he is! Come on! Anyway we caught up to this guy and he says his name is “Peter Paul” LOL! I can’t tell you how many times throughout Latin America we have run into guys with the name “Jesus”. Yes, it may be a popular name, but I also know many times we encounter it, it is also a divine invitation into partnering with Jesus to see Him established and birthed in the ones He puts in front of us that actually bear His name already as His image bearers, they just don’t know it yet, that’s why we go! The world is a big orphanage. They just need ones who know they are children and sons to call them forth in truth and lead them to their real and true home in Jesus, and in themselves actually becoming the house and hosting center of the God of the universe!

Birth and send forth mighty laborers into the plentiful and ripe harvest all over the globe Abba in Jesus’ Name!

Oh boy did I call forth Peter Paul that day. We prayed for his legs and knees and a lot of the pain left and he started walking on them pain free! Ahaha. Peter Paul received the healing anointing of Jesus that day.

Rest of the original testimony to be continued in next blog . . . . . . . . .

Holy Spirit Plaza Party in Brazil (Part II)

Back to the original testimony once again. Haha. I get distracted by His gaze and greatness many times. This is actually a good distraction that I will gladly cultivate and give way to.

Within a couple minutes after Taylor and I learned some of their names our amazing Brazilian sister, Carol, came by and started to help us out with the language. We began calling each one of them out into the dreams and destines of Jesus over them. I have never seen more attentive young people on a random street then there, then in my entire life probably. When one was receiving a word, all of them would so focus and listen to what was being said. Honestly, I have never really seen anything like that night. There was originally about 5-7 young people there, both male and female. It turns out as more and more people from our team came by a lot of them starting calling all their friends to come check out all these crazy foreigners talking about Jesus in this plaza. Haha! Our team is represented by 10 different nations. So literally from 7 people the number increased to what seemed to be around 25-30 young people in a matter of minutes! They were so willing and hungry to receive. It was apparent to me that not many people ever even speak life over them like they need and deserve. They were like sponges, soaking it in. We literally had a Holy Spirit party in the corner of a random plaza where a bunch of youth gathered to receive from heaven who they really were, not what their parents had told them, or their schools, or their culture. To me that was a little glimpse of what true kingdom culture should look like.

Come on church. The TESTIMONY of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. That is all we were doing was testifying of the goodness of the word of Christ to people so ready to receive, they did not even fully realize how dry they were until the true river of life began to flow out of us to quench true thirst, not abused, and counterfeited fleshly, demonic thirst that was born out of desire just manipulated and turned lustful by the sin nature and the devil. I seriously have committed my life to have holy passion and hatred towards the devil and the flesh. My portion will be to joyfully destroy his works with the ease of Christ’s light burden and yoke upon my back!

Thank You Abba! I love You.

Until He Comes Again We Will War And Contend For The Ones He Loves,
May The Lamb Receive The FULL Reward Of His Most Holy Suffering,
From The Amazon in Manaus, Brazil:
Ben