Debbie felt herself launched out of her seat and propelled to the front of the church auditorium. The missionary speaker had just given an altar call for those who felt called to serve overseas. “Africa” was resonating with Debbie as she lay face down on the floor yielding herself up to the call of God.
“But God, You’re going to have to speak with Dan about this”, she prayed. “He has no desire to go to Africa”.
Unbeknownst to my wife, I was in another part of the auditorium, flat on my face as well. The Holy Spirit was speaking to me also.
The presence of the Lord was thick and heavy in the room. I crawled on the carpet over to the place where Debbie was prostrate on the floor.
“Debbie”, I whispered in her ear. “God has just told me we’re going to Africa. He wants us to go to Malawi”.
While she was praying, before I crawled over, she was asking that the Lord would send us to a part of Africa other than Heidi and Roland Baker’s base in Mozambique, where so many seemed to be called. Jesus immediately answered this prayer too with my assertion that He wanted us in the neighboring country of Malawi.
Malawi puzzled Debbie. “Why Malawi? Where was even Malawi on the map?”
After the meeting, she went home and did some investigation. She knew that she wanted to serve with a missionary movement called Iris Ministries founded by Roland and Heidi Baker. They were all about reaching the poorest of the poor, feeding and housing widows and orphans. God had tremendously blessed their church planting ministry as well. Over 5,000 churches had been spawned in a powerful movement of the Holy Spirit replete with book of Acts stuff like miracles, healings, and even dead-raisings!
Sure enough, as she investigated, she discovered a young couple named David “Mo” and Joanna Morrison who where pioneering a work in Malawi. They and their three small children had been living by themselves next door to a witch doctor. Only recently, had they moved on to the missionary base they had built. The base housed children who had been orphaned, a school for pastors, and facilities to store and deliver food to the desperate. Their ministry had already launched 300 churches in the area. Every month they fed thousands of widows and the destitute through their feeding program.
“Yes, this would be the place and the Morrisons would be our people”, Debbie thought as she read.
However, there was a problem. Debbie had multiple medical conditions that would make life overseas next to impossible. “God”, she prayed, “if you want us in Malawi, You’re going to have to heal me!”
Months later, we were in another conference at our church. During deep worship, the entire congregation was silent. The worship leader requested it. You could have heard a pin drop. Suddenly, from the floor where Debbie lay under the power of God, there came a giggle. Her giggling turned into full-on gut-busting laughter. The worship leader and most of the church may have been mortified with her “lack of reverence” but God wasn’t. The laughter was actually a form of healing-deliverance and she got up off of the carpet healed. The healing was so thorough that, under the supervision of her doctor, she was able to go off several medications.
As an extra bonus, the next day of the conference, Debbie was in worship. ” God “, she prayed, “if you could heal me of all of those conditions, could you also heal my eyes?” She took off her glasses and could immediately see small print across the room. Her eye exams have been better than 20-20 since!
We continued praying and planing for our future as missionaries to Malawi. Iris Ministries held a missionary training school at our church so we attended that. It seemed like a good strategy to us to take a short term trip to the base in Malawi to confirm our call there. We planned a three week exploratory trip.
With healing now dealt with, there remained the question of finances. How were we going to pay to go? Airfare and expenses for even a short term trip of three weeks would involve thousands of dollars. Jesus solved that problem as well. My company gave us a sales bonus that allowed us to completely self fund our trip!
It was the night before we were to fly away to Africa. We were packed and ready to go, excited about our trip. A missionary friend of ours who had been to the Morrison’s base in Malawi, was having a conversation with us. It was shocking.
“When you’re in Malawi”, he warned, “you have to watch out for the black mamba snake. It is deadly poisonous. If you see one, run over it with your car, don’t take any chances. They can crawl up inside your car and bite you and you’re dead! Also, be careful of the witch doctors. A child of one of the workers on the Morrison’s base was kidnapped by them. They found her chopped in pieces.”
We were horrified.
Thanking our friend for his warnings, we parted company. “God”, we prayed, “what have we done? We have bitten off way more than we can chew with this trip. This is too big for us. We’re just a couple of Starbucks missionaries!”
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. Our daughter in law’s parents/our good friends were paying us a surprise visit. We poured out our hearts and fears to them. As they prayed over us, we suddenly felt the tangible peace of the Lord coating us like invisible armor. We would be ok. God was in this! He was with us here and He would be with us there as well.
Earlier that summer, as we continued our ministry with children and teens in the housing projects of Harrisburg, Debbie felt strongly impressed to share something with the kids. She told them the Bible story of the man who had sold everything that he possessed to purchase a field.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field”. Matt 13:44
Drifting off to sleep that night before our flight, we had no idea how what we were embarking upon would be so like that man in Jesus’ story.
It would cost us everything…Everything.