Friday, July 30, 2010
It is long, but it's worth every minute you give to read it...
A Panoramic Vision of THE Harvest
I have had this repeated vision over and over the last 22 years since I was saved. I saw impressions of it when I walked across America in 1990 with only a sleeping bag and a "Jesus Saves" sign blazed across my backpack in neon red. I saw the vision while walking the streets of this nation's largest cities long after midnight.
It engraved itself in my consciousness as I preached on the streets of Seattle at the age of 18 with only the homeless and the gutter as my congregation. I have seen the same vision while ministering in the sultry south on the mean streets of Atlanta where racism and religion still prevail. Over and over the past 22 years this panoramic vision of "the harvest" has left its enduring mark on my soul, and finally I am to make it plain. Make it plain so that those that read it can run—run into this field the Bible calls, "The Harvest."
Vision of the Field
I saw a field going on endlessly as far as the eyes could see. It reminded me of the gravity of Abraham's vision in Genesis when God said, "Then He brought him outside and said, "Look now toward Heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them" (Genesis 15:5). That's how boundless this harvest field was. It stretched on in every direction, until it left you dizzy with the sheer magnitude of it all.
As I continued to look down the endless rows of wheat, I saw as it were a figure far off in the distance, working. The heat waves coming from the hard-packed ground made it difficult to see, so I stepped into the field to look closer. I glanced down at the furrows and rows and I noticed much of the ground was hard-packed and fallow, yet other smaller parts were dark with fertile soil and tilled. Large sections of the field that I could see from my vantage point were unharvested, and the ground showed signs of neglect—fallow, hard and dry.
I continued to walk toward the figure that I had first noticed deep in the field. I heard a peculiar sound as if it were coming from all directions. Like a distant whine or a baby crying? I stopped to listen more closely. I heard it more audibly now as I paused—it was a mournful cry, like someone weeping. As I listened more intently, I heard the Holy Spirit say to me, "It's the cry of the harvest; a forgotten, abandoned harvest—like a baby left discarded from its mother!"
I could clearly hear the mourning and crying from this wide harvest field as if it was crying out to be redeemed, accepted and received. I was shaken and my heart broke as I heard the pitiful cry of the harvest all around me. The words of Job sounded like a crashing cymbal in my spirit, "O earth, do not cover my blood; may my cry never be laid to rest!" (Job
16:18). This harvest of disquieted souls refused to be discounted, and their plaintive cry came before me.
Vision of the River
I continued walking and the cry from the harvest seemed to wane; it appeared that the figure in the field was now even farther away. As I continued to walk down the rows which were mostly dry and cracked, unexpectedly I caught the scent of water. I abruptly turned toward the breeze that carried the smell of fresh water wafting through the air and I began to run toward it. I pushed through row after row of heavy-laden stocks of wheat bent over and bowing low to the ground. I sprung right through one more row, and there it was—the river.
I was taken aback in this series of endless rows of grain and then, abruptly, this gurgling river. Before I could run and leap into the cold water, drinking from its welcoming shore, I looked at what was before me and I was still. In the river and along its sides were hundreds if not thousands of men, women and children jumping, swimming and laughing.
I yelled from where I was near the edge of the harvest field only a few dozen yards away, but they could not hear me. The people were deaf to my cries as if I was not even present. Didn't they see the figure working in the distance all alone? Didn't they hear the despairing cry coming from the very field that was all around them? Didn't they see the massive field that was left unattended and forgotten? Couldn't they see me just a stone's throw away, waving my hands and shouting? Some were even gazing intently into the river as if they were hypnotized by its ebb and tide. It was uncanny.
A Sudden Anguish Swept Over Me at a Revelation of the Immense Labor Left Undone
The river was so intoxicating and appealing, it took a great deal of effort not to be drawn closer by its strong allure and promise of refreshing. I was about to step in closer when the sound of crying and mourning grew louder. The cry of the harvest pierced my heart again and I turned back toward the field. I saw the lonely figure in the now-setting horizon and was determined to forge ahead.
I looked back one more time at the crowds and the river. I was amazed that they were somehow completely unaware of the vast expanse of field that surrounded them on both sides. The persistent cry of the harvest could not reach their ears; either because of the festivities or a mystery that I did not understand. I tried shouting again and pointing toward the figure alone in the field, but no one even glanced at me or heard.
A sudden anguish swept over me at a revelation of the immense labor left undone as the field stretched out for endless miles around me. Solomon, in his equally endless wisdom wrote, "There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under Heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1). I knew beyond any doubt at this moment it was time to labor. The fields were ready. They were ripe.
I called to mind another Scripture that leapt from the pages of the Bible, "Whoever gathers in the summer is a wise son. Whoever sleeps at harvest time brings shame..." (Proverbs 10:5). Lord, never let me be put to shame!
Vision of the Headstone
I finally turned my back on the river and took in the rich harvest anew before me. Jesus' exhortation to His early disciples in Matthew 9:37-38 was now in striking clarity as I gazed out at the field, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." I asked myself that very moment, "Lord, did I forget to pray?"
I began to walk doggedly toward the lonely figure, at times stopping because of the heat. Then unexpectedly, I stumbled upon what seemed like a stone or some kind of marker off ahead in the dirt. It looked like a carved stone or rock, apparently there for some inherent purpose. I noticed bouquets of flowers, all kinds of memorabilia and small personal items scattered around. As I drew up closer I knew what it was—a grave marker like in a cemetery, and clearly inscribed on it were the words, "The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved" (Jeremiah 8:20).
I was aghast. Below this agonizing inscription I saw specific years of the calendar etched in its stone: 1610, 1689, 1705, 1790, 1830, 1875, 1920, 1945, 1970, 1989, 2000 and so forth. Other dates were recorded below but were worn and illegible. I knew what they were—times and seasons, dates and generations where a great cycle of harvest had come upon the earth and had not been seized; a kairos moment that had come and gone.
One More Date Was Carved in the Headstone: 2020
At the very top of the marker was one more number as if it had just been cut into the stone—2020. I was cognizant in that moment that through the years of 2000 to 2020 was another divine cycle or season for the harvest of souls in the earth. We are in the middle of that cycle now in 2010. 2020 was a divine mile-marker in the world's history and also a great signpost for Heaven as well. I dropped to my knees right there in the field and cried aloud, praying, "Lord, send out laborers! Lord, here am I. Send me!"
Flowers and trinkets adorned the headstone as if generation after generation had paid homage to times past, rather than seizing the moments that they had then. Historic opportunities had come to win the world to Christ but had passed them by. I was melancholy and sad as I watched this memorial stone fade behind me while I continued to walk deeper into the field.
What I saw next was unforgettable: The headstone was now only a memory when out of the heat-waves and swaying wheat I saw an angel and a woman.
Vision of the Angel and the Woman
The woman was dressed in what appeared to be Biblical-era clothing and was gleaning in the field behind what was clearly an angel. Her faded lavender dress was laden with wheat as she filled a large basket beside her. A red sash was around her waist. I knew exactly who it was—Ruth! The Ruth I had been recently reading about and ministering from in the Bible. That vivid illustration in God's Word where Ruth followed the reapers in Boaz's field was right there before me. I remembered the Scripture in Ruth that stated, "And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers" (Ruth 2:3).
It was such a sight to see the angel a few yards ahead of her with a scythe cutting the wheat in bushels. They both worked in tandem, reaping the wheat seamlessly in a synchronized motion as if it was rehearsed. I stared in awe at this amazing sight and I knew it was prophetic; a divine message played out in this drama unfolding before me. Then the words of Jesus in Matthew added one more stroke to this masterpiece I was beholding, "The harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels" (Matthew 13:39).
Ruth is a picture of an end-time Church following the Kingdom of God into the fields of nations, preparing the way of the Lord. A time was now upon us that we would work with the angels of Heaven invisibly in the immense field that lies before this present generation. Heaven and earth would work in unprecedented unison to see it reaped.
I remembered in Jewish tradition that on every Pentecost the book of Ruth is read. On Pentecost in the Upper Room when they were waiting on the promise of the Holy Spirit's power that would take them around the world, the story of Ruth was repeated. As I stood in this vision, I saw it too. We are the Bride that would find her Boaz, her Christ, in the threshing floor of nations. That's where the lovers of God would truly be found. I prayed that He would find me there, too—in the field.
Vision of the Clouds
Abruptly and without warning, a dark cloud came down blackening the air with strange smells and acrid smoke. I was nearly blinded, my eyes watering as this strange cloud descended. It took all of my senses not to give into a sudden feeling of drowsiness; my eyes grew heavy and I could barely walk. I was like a drunken man weaving back and forth in between the rows of wheat, staggering. Voices came from somewhere in the smoke; it sounded strangely like music, and then at other times it was incoherent. I was disoriented and confused, and I desperately tried to find my way out of the cloud.
As this disturbing experience continued, a specific Scripture arrested me, "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41).
I fell to my knees as this terrible smoke swirled around me, and I began to pray loudly, "Lord, here am I, send me! Lord, lead me not into temptation but deliver me from evil!" As I continued praying, a breeze which transformed into a gust of wind began to blow and the cloud retreated. I knew this wind was the "Ruach HaKodesh" or the Spirit of God. This was the same wind that brought the dead bones to life in Ezekiel and the same wind that blew through the Upper Room and sent them outward to the uttermost parts of the world. It was that same Spirit which was clearing the dark smoke from the air, now giving me a clear vision of the harvest field again and the lone figure in the distance. I had my senses back.
As I looked out again at the endless rows of wheat, I saw similar dark little clouds appearing, swirling. These clouds were distractions and mirages that caused many to withdraw or to simply freeze and do nothing. I recalled another Scripture as I stood where the cloud had once been only seconds ago, and I prayed it out loud, "(God) hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the Kingdom of His dear Son!" (Colossians 1:13).
Vision of the Saints
I continued to walk now with more resolve and I began to see large patches of field already reaped in sheaves. Every hundred yards or so I would come upon another swathe of harvest that was thoroughly cut down and laying in perfect piles of sheaves bound tightly in bundles. I marveled at the harvested portions of field and wondered out loud who could have done it. I looked more closely and I saw memorial markers or capstones near the middle of these cleared out areas. I walked up to one in particular in a very large and wide harvested area, and it read simply, "Corrie Ten Boom."
I walked on further and I read another capstone in a cleared area nearby, and it read, "William and Catherine Booth." Each area of field had a small memorial to the Christian that had harvested so diligently in it. Most of the names I had never heard of before. Others I had only heard or read before in books and memoirs such as, "Jim Elliot," "Hudson Taylor," and "D.L. Moody."
I continued to walk, observing each harvested area, and finally I stopped to pray in another clearing. I prayed out loud, "Lord, let there be a small memory of my work on this earth as well. Whether it is to be read by others or not, let my short life mean something even as these others before me have." I remembered the prayer of David and I said it out loud: "Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is." (Psalm 39:4)
Vision of the Lonely Christ
I stubbornly left this last patch of harvested wheat, not wanting to depart, somehow thinking that one of these great harvesters would step out of the field to meet me. No one did. I was once again drawn to the lonely sentinel that worked in the field ahead. As I focused on the personage again, it didn't seem as far as it was before. I could now make out the face and appearance. It was Jesus. He was sweating and dirty, working vigorously and tirelessly. He looked up at me and wiped the sweat from His brow, and said, "So, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."
He had such a sad look on His face, yet I knew He was happy to see me. I had pressed on and not been deterred even by the glorious things I had glimpsed—the river, the saints before me, the angels and the woman that harvested. I had pressed into the field even beyond the frightening cloud that had tried to stop me. He spoke again, "Awake you that sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light" (Ephesians 5:14). I was awake.
I knew this was a prophetic panorama of the great harvest of humanity that Jesus had spoken of in the Bible. It was also a stark revelation of the utter lack of laborers despite over 2,000 years of enterprise. Now after all that I had seen in this vision, nothing could compare to the lonely anguished look on Jesus' face as He invited me into "the fellowship of His suffering." I remembered in the garden of Gethsemane He had asked His disciples to pray with Him in that, His darkest hour. Now, He is not only requesting us to pray with Him but to work with Him in the harvest fields of the world—the colossal expanse of human life where the more than half of earth's populations has never even heard of or extolled the name of Jesus Christ.
As this vision was ending, Jesus stopped toiling for a moment and looked back at me with a look of kindness. He handed me His threshing instrument and said almost in a whisper, "Ask of Me, and I shall give you the heathen for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession" (Psalm 2:8).
I bowed down greatly.
Consuming Fire Ministries
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
One of the wonderful aspects of my job as Executive Director is that I get to receive the thank you letters of praise from orphanage directors our teams partner with all over the world. Here is a recent letter from Pastor Samuel of the Tumain Children's Home in Pallisa, Uganda. Our June team traveled to work with his orphanage, his church and some community children's clubs. Very few Americans travel and stay in Pallisa, so this was a great blessing to all who were involved.
Peace, Joy and Grace be unto you, I bring greeting from Pallisa family and thanking God for making it possible for us to host the V.O team also in Pallisa, what a blessing from God.
We are so grateful for what you all guyz did to bless our Children with sports equipments, Clothes, shoes, Children’s crafts, teachings and your big hugs that you gave us may the Lord increase you daily.
Results: During your stay here we have recorded now 6 People that received Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior in our Church, some did when Chris preached on Sunday and other during the week, to my surprise, we received one guy who prayed Volley with the V.O team and he was pulled by their Character so on Sunday he came to Church and said he want to change his Characters too.
Children Clubs: Our 3 clubs that the V.O team worked with where so blessed and we have seen a very big growth in our attendance for the last one week. Now they know that there other people somewhere in the world who care and love them and also that Jesus is not only for blacks but for all.
Women’s Ministry: We where so blessed to have Mum Barbra on the Team and Tamara and some one else that I have forgotten the name, their stories healed many women’s hearts, knowing that they are not alone who go through what their going through. “When the old Muzungu told us her story I felt like rising up again, knowing that I am not the only one” said the lady on the Sunday service.
Children’s Home: The V, O team blessed us so much with food, beddings and games. We have food that can last for 5 months now; this was a very big wave off to my worries of how they are going to feed. They will be able to have balanced food and gain their health so that by the time we send them back to their parents/ relatives they are very ok.
Vote of Thanks: On behalf of the Ministry here in Pallisa I would like once again to appreciate the June 2010 V.O team for leaving your comfort zones and come down here in Africa to work with us. Our countries in Africa deffer in there Challenges but you are able to come in and help us.
I thank everyone who support the June team with any kind of support, you did not support them but the Children.
We love you so much and please know that you left a maker in our heart. We will pray for you and you pray for us.
Pray for the Aug Team that will be here soon.
Please Pass it to another.Pastor Samuel
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
At Visiting Orphans we have wonderful opportunities as a parachurch organization to partner with other not for profits. Our heart in doing this is so that a ministry or not for profit agency can focus on the vision God has for them while we focus on what God has called us to which is sending out the Body of Christ to visit orphans in distress.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Thursday, July 22, 2010
I received an email this morning entitled "We Must Be in Heaven!" from our July Africa team leader, Kari Gibson. Here was the letter and a photo I received of the team. What an encouragement to hear good news from a distant land!
I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me the great honor and priviledge of leading this remarkable team to Africa. I truly have no words to express to you the AMAZING TEAM I am with. I have truly never watched a team come together and bond and love and serve one another. I have been blown away!!!!!!!!! They have gone over and beyond what I have ever watched a team minister to children. Its God breathed. They are taking their gifts, talents and passions and pouring them all over the children at every project we have visited. I have watched the team unite and come together for a real purpose. We wept (ugly cry) at My Father's House and school celebration. We are overwhelmed with the reality of what it means to simply love orphans. There has been an outpouring of everything you would have wanted the team to do for children.
YOU WILL LOVE REBECCA!!! What she planned for our team was so remarkable, I really can't even describe it to you. The celebration was unlike anything I have ever seen in my life or ever will experience. I can't wait to show you photos and the videos.
You will need to make the stop at My Father's House/school, Return Ministries and living at Caanan's Home a fixed agenda year after year. I could spend years here with these 3 ministries and still never tap into the miracles I have witnessed in only 2 short days.
THANK YOU SO MUCH for the remarkable job you have done for our team. Every single moment has been a blessing. My life has changed forever serving with Visiting Orphans!!!!
BTW- the team may not get on the plane on Aug. 1st We just might try and stay here forever:))) What's even more crazy... we haven't even been to Ethiopia and my heart is sooo full to the brim. WOW the rest will just be overflow.
Pastor Isaac is organizing our time at King Fisher Lodge and the nile boat ride. We cant wait!!!
Ohhh yayyy and I get to meet Katie Davis, my hero in 24 hours. Pinch me!
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Monday, July 19, 2010
Our June Ethiopia and Uganda team just arrived home last weekend. As soon as they arrived home, we sent out one team to Ethiopia and another back to both Ethiopia and Uganda. So we are busy this Summer with back to back trips to Africa!
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Our second team to Costa Rica is well underway. One of our team members, Kim Stanley, is blogging at: http://www.goingnotknowing.blogspot.com/. She and her son Caleb were supposed to be on the first team but passport issues prevented them from joining that team. After a week of re-arranging flights, going to New Orleans to get passports the same day and lots of additional costs all with very positive attitudes that were an amazing testimony of their faith and trust the God had a plan, they made it and are now with the second team in Costa Rica loving on the kids at 2 orphanages there. This is from her blog:
Monday, July 12, 2010
We woke to a beautiful morning today. After devotional and an excellent breakfast, we hit the road to visit Villa's. It took us several hours ride some interesting roads. Many of the roads have holes from so much rainfall and there is not always a lot of room to go around them. We also crossed many one lane bridges. From what I can tell, the vehicle that gets there first and "honks" the horn has the right of way. We are blessed with an excellent driver and guide. I wish you could see all of the luggage they had packed on top of the bus the first day. Caleb said we looked like a scene from "The Goofy Movie" and I tend to agree!
We spent the afternoon at Villa's with the children there. Since a group had been there the week before, it made our transition much easier. They recongnized Kim W from that group and were soooo excited to see her! After a wonderful lunch prepared by the tias, we got to know the kids. We had bubbles blowing, bag painting, picture frame making, and stickers going everywhere!!! But it was fun and a great way to break the ice and get to love on the children.
On Thursday, we will take the children to the beach to play in the water and the sand! This is very much a treat for them and the tias and I am so glad that our guides were able to work this out. In just a few hours, with very limited Spanish, I learned something very interesting. Love is the same in any language, laughter is the same, joy is the same, happiness is the same, and many other emotions are the same that we saw today. Isn't God an awesome God? This has been a very humbling experience for many of us. These children are God's children also!!!
Visiting Orphans has a team in Chen Zhou, China. 14 year old Elyssa Mapple on the team is blogging. You can read her blog at: http://www.visitingorphanschenzhou.blogspot.com/
Here is a small segment from her blog:
We ended up being able to buy the orphanage a big air conditioner, and a TV. I think they were very happy and thankful that we were able to get them something they needed. Okay, so back on track, at 2:45 we went to the orphanage for the last time (on this trip) :) and played with the babies for about an hour. We went downstairs afterwards and they decorated the foam visors with stick on foam stickers that we brought. They loved decorating them. Susan also got some of her pictures developed so that the older kids could have a picture of themselves in their foam picture frame that they made the other day. We put all of the frames in a collage sort of thing on their wall so they can always see them. We also brought face paint and we painted most of their faces. Katie's secret talent is face painting, haha, she was really good. Some of us also brought them glow stick bracelets that they wore and thought they were the coolest things ever! Sadly, we were told that it was 5 and that we needed to say our goodbyes and take our last group picture out by the orphanage. It was so hard saying goodbye to all of the precious ones that we have come to love; however, we all hoped that if we are fortunate to come back again that most of them will be gone to live with a family.
The following post is taken from our co-worker and Costa Rica team leader Alicia Jordan's blog
And these faces are why we go....they are loved and cherished by our heavenly Father. God has great plans and a purpose for their lives. They are wonderfully and uniquely made and are worthy to be loved and how they desperately need to be loved. These faces bring sweet memories to my mind!
Posted by Alicia (dna) at 8:55 PM
Thursday, July 01, 2010
We are excited to announce a trip to Haiti that we just scheduled from October 16th to October 23rd this Fall!
This team will be following up on the work done by our assessment team which returned from Haiti in June. God is already stirring hearts and using it to do big things. The team in October will be working primarily with Foyer des Enfants de Demain orphanage (Children’s Home of Tomorrow).
This orphanage remained standing after the earthquake when every building around them crumbled to the ground, killing many. God saved the orphanage director Edrins Jean, his wife Claujine, and all the orphans they care for! Since the earthquake, this orphanage has received even more orphans who were displaced and they are in great need of help. Our teams will be working to purchase or donate new mattresses(see below photo which shows the mattresses and beds where the orphans currently sleep), bedding, clothing & shoes for the children, and toiletry items as well. They are living in tents and a shed outside of their main building because of the uncertainty of the safety of their building and the fear of possible aftershocks. Our ultimate goal is to find a church who is willing to partner with them long term to provide for their every day needs like food, as they have very little to sustain them.
As you can see - the needs are many. We’d love to find a construction team who could go and help assess their building and work to make it structurally sound. We also hope to provide more trauma counseling so that once the building is sound, they will not fear living in it again. If you know a church that may be seriously interested in partnering with this orphanage through Visiting Orphans or a team of contractors who could help with their orphanage building, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, we are recruiting adult team members for our Fall trip. You can sign up here. And last, but certainly not least in God's eyes,if you'd like to donate to this mission, please do so here.