Many of the recent updates have been about some of the food package distributions that have been happening, but for this one I will focus on something that has quietly been happening alongside these outreaches, as we have encouraged and trained our team in offering to pray for people.
When Liz and I were on sabbatical in the UK in 2019, some supporters visited us and shared how they had done some training with a group called ‘Healing on the Streets’ and sensed it was important to share some of those things with us because they wondered if it would become part of our ministry going forwards. In God’s amazing timing, the same group were running a training event in Kingston two weeks after we returned to Jamaica, so I attended.
They led us through a training manual which was the most mature and healthy training I have engaged with on offering to pray for people; not promising what only God can deliver, not telling people to be irresponsible with their health because of misguided “faith”, but not avoiding prayer for healing because of those mistakes and pitfalls. This training was, and continues to be, a source of inspiration as well as a solid Biblical foundation on the practice of praying for others.
So we went through some of this training with our team in preparation for the first food package and prayer outreach last year. When we went into the community immediately afterwards to deliver the packages, a sixteen year old girl (who had only been a believer for three months) prayed for an elderly gentleman with severe abdominal pain. The pain went immediately, which was an exciting moment for the man as well as for the young person who had prayed for him.
A couple of months later we had arranged to collect fresh vegetables for another food package outreach from Joan, someone who sells at the market. As she walked around the market she had a noticeable limp, so I asked what was bothering her. She replied that she was in constant pain in her knee, sometimes low level pain and sometimes intense pain. I asked if she would like prayer and she instantly accepted, so we stood there in the market and prayed. When we got to the bus a few minutes later to load in all the goods, Joan said “mi get a likkle ease!” (i.e. the pain has subsided a bit).
The following Monday she called me, and I thought it was to check if we were ordering more vegetables soon, but she was calling to say that she was completely pain free in her knee, which hadn’t happened for several years. When we did the next outreach three weeks later, we brought more goods from her and I asked how her knee was feeling. She smiled a cheeky smile, jumped up and started swinging her leg at me, and said with a laugh; “Yeah! Mi redi fi kick yuh wid it now!!” Even last week she called again to say hello and let me know that everything was still fine with her knee.
One of the single mothers in Trench Town, Sasha, who we took food to that day, had just been diagnosed with glaucoma so was very anxious because the Dr. said that she was likely to go blind in time. Two of our team knelt in her home and prayed. About two months later she called to say that she had an encouraging report from the Dr. who wanted to do another test because it no longer looked like she had glaucoma. Another month afterwards she message to say that she had done the test and it confirmed that she did not have glaucoma – she was so grateful to God! Sasha was one of the Mums who helped with the most recent food package outreaches.
And for one more story, if you have a spare minute and 40 seconds you can hear Dawnette tell it herself:
Since experiencing this healing Dawnette has been reading her Bible every morning and every night, and tuning in to online church.
I mention these stories because, while we have not been able to run all the programmes we were running before Covid, this is one of the ways in which God has added another element to how we are reaching out in the community.
It ties in to a phrase that caught on among our team a few years ago; “Empowering to empower”. We initially used it as a tag line for a mission trip, but soon realised that it captured an important dynamic that sits at the heart of our work. When you empower people you might help them grow a little, but when you empower people to empower others; much deeper and more lasting growth takes place.
Just yesterday I was talking to one of our leaders who had grown up coming to clubs, trips, and community events, gradually taking on more leadership responsibility over the years as he grew. He described the struggle to keep walking right when the pressures of life and many people around him were pushing him to compromise his faith. What helped to keep him on track was that he knew that other young people who had the same struggles were looking up to him as an example, and he didn’t want to let them down. He summed it up; “The best thing you ever did for me was to make me a leader.”
He had been empowered to empower others. The other team members and myself have been empowered through the training on how to pray for others, and through this we have seen things happen in people’s lives that could not happen in any other way than through God’s presence.
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:11-13