Warning! Reading This Could Ruin Your Normal Life
There must be more than working to live and living to work.
Sometimes people ask, “What is the fruit of the renewal? Does all the laughing, rolling and ho-ing really bring change in lives?”
In our case, the “holy noise” was a mere by-product of a spiritual metamorphosis. God has made an impact not just on one life but on our entire family and the lives of many others through what He is doing in Toronto.
Back in 1995 we were “normal” people living in Australia. I was working as a teacher and nurse. One day my husband, Steve; our daughter, Liz; our son, Peter, and I embarked on a one-year teaching exchange to Toronto, Canada. We didn’t know that our lives were about to change.
In fact, had anyone told us what we were getting into when we headed for Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, we probably would have stayed home. That is where we joined the rest of the world who were getting totally saturated in the spirit. The rumors about TACF had reached Australia before we left: people rolled on the floor, barked like dogs, and laughed like they were drunk with alcohol. But we were determined to don our spiritual boots and jump in anyway.
During the year we spent at TACF, we fell more in love with God and began wanting to give more and more of ourselves to Him. The Holy Spirit was more tangible than we had ever known. The teaching was new, the worship radical, and we could abandon ourselves to Him in His presence. It was called “freedom.”
God caught the hearts of our children who also became radical followers of Jesus. During the first “Catch the Fire” conference we attended, our son, Peter, gave his heart to Jesus. He had suffered from nightmares most of his life. At this conference he received prayer from a long-haired youth who looked more like a street person from downtown than a prayer team member; but after that prayer, Peter’s nightmares stopped.
During that year, 1996, my parents came from Australia to visit with us. My mother had been a radical for God for many years, but my father who had long left his faith behind him, had been the target of our prayers for his salvation for over 23 years.
Dad is what you would call a “details” man, not given over to fads and gimmicks. The Sunday that Dad visited TACF, we prayed fervently for a nice, quiet service. However, as usual the Holy Spirit was moving powerfully and the service was anything but orderly.
As John Arnott often does when he extends an altar call, he asked us to question those standing on either side if they needed to be up front to give their lives to God. Not wanting to intrude on my dad’s private life, I was having quite the discussion with God as to why I was NOT going to ask my dad if he needed salvation. When I finally gave in and turned to ask dad, his hand was already lifted to pledge his life to Jesus.
We had prayed for Dad for over 23 years! What a joy to see Dad in the kingdom, our prayers finally answered! Dad later said that soon after he walked into TACF, he really felt connected with the Holy Spirit. He was always “OK” with the concepts of God the Father and Jesus the Son, but he didn’t see where the Holy Spirit fit in. Now, he did.
WRECKED FOR "NORMAL" LIFE
Over the next 10 years, we have watched God “wreck” our family and make us unsuitable to return to our “normal” lives. Back in Australia there was a growing question in our hearts that there must be more than working to live and living to work. It was then that God resurrected a desire He had placed in my heart when I was 12 years old, which was to love orphans and to spend myself on the poor.
So in 2000, God fulfilled my desire and released our entire family to leave our lives in Australia and move to Mozambique to minister with Rolland and Heidi Baker. We live there now with 350 children, 160 Mozambican staff, 30 missionaries, a clinic, a school, a pastors’ school and with more than 1,000 annual visitors. We direct the main base in Zimpeto, Maputo, for Iris Ministries and have the joy of watching the Holy Spirit impact lives.
GOD ENLARGES OUR EMMEDIATE FAMILY
In 1984 long before we went to live and minister in Mozambique, during the civil war there, a baby boy was born. His father abandoned his mother before his birth, and his mother died before he had memories of her. He was sent to his auntie’s house where he watched his cousins go to school while he worked for the household, hauling the water, lighting the fire, cleaning and cooking. When he was 12 years old, his auntie could no longer have him in the house so she took him to an Iris Ministries Children's Center where he encountered God.
God touched the heart of this lonely boy and filled the hole of abandonment in his heart.
At the age of 16 the young boy moved to another Iris Ministries Children's Center, where at the age of 16, he went to live with a long-term missionary who cared for and supported him. He continued to follow God and became a powerful worship leader and example to his peers.
In May of 2005, he fell in love with the daughter of a missionary and was married to her in March 2006. That young man’s name is Betinho who married our daughter, Liz! Betinho now has the opportunity to have his own family, to live for God and make a difference in an unjust world. Together Liz and Betinho are an example of the Father heart of God transforming normal people into people who do extraordinary feats in God’s Kingdom.
In 1999 Liz had attended the TACF School of Ministry where God had changed her with His love and filled her up with the Holy Spirit. Liz chose to swim against the tide, abandon her career and go back to Mozambique to minister to the poor. Liz continues to love the girls in our center like an older sister. She lives under the most challenging circumstances, encouraging the girls to live for God and to see them reunited with their extended families.
After the Holy Spirit touched our son Peter at TACF, he also lived and ministered with us in Mozambique for 3 years evangelizing whenever the opportunity arose. His friends were the orphans of the center; his mission field, anyone who would listen. In 2000 when floods swept through Mozambique, Peter, who was 16 then, shared the gospel with hundreds of refugees displaced from their homes because of the floodwaters.
Radical for God and captured by the freedom of the Holy Spirit at TACF, he completed the School of Ministry in 2004. He continues to live in Toronto and work at the school. He has a passion to see other young people set free to fall more in love with the Lord. He recently married Trish, who is another radical “River dweller,” a Canadian girl he met at TACF.
After the renewal made a powerful impact on my mother, she remained a radical lover of God. Her faith carried her through her 18-month battle with a brain tumor, until the Lord called her home 3 years ago. My father continues his passionate pursuit of the Lord and returned this August to TACF for another drink of the Holy Spirit’s “new wine!” He recently ventured out to visit us in Mozambique.
PARENTING THE ORPHANS
Steve and I continue to “love upon" the orphans of Mozambique, knowing that wherever we put our spiritual “feet,” God will push back the darkness and bring the light of Christ. Every day we are privileged to see God’s love in action.
Six years ago Ernesto came to us when he was only 2 weeks old along with his twin, his mother who was only 17 and an older brother. His mother was unable to care for him, and God put this little boy in our hearts.
Ernesto has been close to death a number of times over the last 6 years because of illnesses and infections. He has endured two long hospitalizations, endless injections and countless medications all without his biological mom. God has given us His love to pour out on him so that today he remains a happy and normal boy.
HELPING A DOCTOR FULFILL HIS DREAM
In the year 2001 we had the opportunity to minister to a group of approximately 1,000 refugees from neighboring war-torn countries who were housed in worn out tents with dirt for flooring, a 45-minute drive from our center. Twice a week we would take them food and clothing and some heavy doses of the love of God, the Father.
During this time we met Olivier, a doctor from the Congo. This young man in his late twenties had fled his country in search of peace. He lived in the most primitive conditions clinging to the belief that God would make a way for him.
In order for Olivier to register as a doctor in Mozambique, he was required to work 6 days a week, 12 hours a day for one year with no salary. During this time we prayed for him, supported him financially, and encouraged him. During the difficult times, God poured out His love into his heart. When Olivier completed his year of internship, his fiancée joined him from the Congo.
They married and now have a son. He is a competent, respected doctor responsible for a population of over 220,000 in a remote northern province of Mozambique. Although he earns less than $500 US per month, he is deeply thankful to God, appreciating the help he received which enabled him to be able to live through poverty without salary for a year.
Thank you, Lord, for taking our lives and pouring into us and for filling us up so that we could pour out to those who are in need! What an indescribable pleasure!
It is because of what God has released through this outpouring that we call “renewal” that He can make a difference to the lost through us. Our stories are a tiny drop in the ocean of similar testimonies of how God first pours in His love to refresh a weary believer and then keeps on pouring in so that the once-weary soul might overflow with enough love to give away.
Encountering God in Toronto has made our lives passionate about seeing God touch others with the River of His love that just keeps on flowing and flowing through one person and the next.
We have asked the Lord that each year we will be able to return to Toronto for another drink of His love to refill our weary but happy souls. God has remained faithful to do this, and for over 10 years we have returned to Toronto at least once every 12 months to “soak” in God’s love.
So if you ask me whether there is fruit to this, I would say, “How about a family changed, souls saved, opportunities opened to love the poor, orphans placed in families...?”
WARNING: Unless you are ready for your life to change, don’t dare set foot in the door of Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship! You will be happily “ruined” for “business as usual.”