The Plague

Few things disgust mankind like rats and fleas.  Now, diseased rats and fleas takes it to another level.  If the two would only stick together, like old friends,  we would have no problem.  But, the fleas have had enough of their nasty hosts and looked for greener pastures.  The target,  unsuspecting Madagascar inhabitants.  With them they carry a bacteria causing the beobonic plague.  If left untreated, it goes to the lungs and can then be transferred like the common cold.

As usual, the government tried to minimize the issue.  Then suddenly the plague is bummed up to level two after multiple deaths.  Panic struck the upper class and everybody clammered for masks and antibiotics.  Within a day or two, there are no masks available in any pharmacy in Antananarivo, the capital. So ironical.  Madagascar,  one of the poorest nations in the world, gets hit by a plague that only the rich is concerned about.  If you have to choose between mask or meal – what will you do?  It is a no brainer.  So it grew.

Our problem is 150 children, packed into 5 houses like sardines.  No wiggle room and trapped.  Disaster waiting to happen.  Then the bomb drops.  Eina, one of our teenage girls, gets diagnosed with the plague.  She goes to the plague ward of one of the local hospitals.  The rest of the center is quarantined.  No one to leave their house and everybody on medicine.  We also have more than 80 workers, house moms, cleaners, cooks, etc. coming in and out of the center.  You can just imagine the implication.

In our small group we pray and Jean Claude gets a scripture – Psalm 91  I will say of the LORD “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.”  Surely He will save you from the deadly pestilence.  You will not fear the terror of night, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. Thousand may fall around you, but it will not come near you …. How awesome is that.

On a lighter note, I suggested to my neighbor that we should start a business with cats.  “We will make a fortune” I say.  “No way” he said.  “Tana rats are bigger than cats.”  That was the end of my brainwave!

Another plague descended on my house this month.  I woke up and looked at my watch – 4:20 am it read.  With a bladder yelling bloody murder – I make my way to the loo.  I finish my business and turn around to flush.  In the darkness,  I  noticed a light going on and off – on and off.  My foggy brain did not have but a second to contemplate,  when a Malagasy man appeared in full view about 30 cm from my face.  Like a geyser erupting  – adrenaline squirted into my veins.  Next thing my mouth opens and I hear myself bellow like a man with a bullhorn ” Hey!!!!”  The head ducked down below the window and I spun around like a ballerina on speed.  I ran through my house like a trapped bull and bashed the doors wide open.  Like a mad man I ran around my house.  I was going to help a Malagasy man with his decision making process.  The only problem is that I had long forgotten about Jesus and missionary.  I think God had mercy on my soul that morning.  If my house exit strategy was better executed,  I might have been looking at Madagascar from behind bars.

When the dust had settled,  we noticed that the barbed – wire in the back, had been cut.  Our privacy  had been intruded on.  Like a Jack in the box, I am up and out of bed at the slightest of noise.  Now, that is a plague of a different color.

Remember,  you only have now.  Don’t live an illusion.  Peace be with you.

Love you guys,

Michiel

 

 

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Beach Boys

During their break my small group, with the teenage boys, met on a regular basis.  It has been so inspiring to see how God grew their relationships with Him and their ability to hear His voice.  Last year we were able to take them on a small retreat.  This year their dream was to go to the beach.  Some of them, had never seen the ocean.

As the break progressed, their request kept coming.  “Iris doesn’t have the money to send you.  You’ll have to pray” was my standard answer.  With feverish intent they would beg God to make their wish come true.  I also desperately wanted to reward them for their faithful small group attendance and growth with Him.  The break was coming to a close, and still no money.  We prayed and God miraculously put the finances together in a few days!

I so wish that each one of you could have been there when we announced that God provided the money.  The house just simply came down.  Deafening applause erupted. Applause that a goal at a soccer match couldn’t solicit.  Done – we were in!  God scored this one!

Anticipation and excitement in a teenage mind, is a beautiful thing.  Common sense is already quite lacking – so anticipation really stirs the pot – with God just sitting clapping hands.  Then it happened.  Twelve hours on local transport with twelve boys – an interesting endeavor.  Fifi led the pack by hurling his lunch into a plastic bag.  The aroma that filled the bus had quite a few on edge.  Thank God that we arrived at our destination with no further events and all in one piece.

While at home we had to cover a few essentials to assist the hormonal imbalance in a teenage boy’s brain.  “What kind of problems do we have at the beach?” I asked in small group. ” Big water” one answered.  “Yes, that is a good start” I said.  “What else?” I asked.  “Slip” one yelled with others cheering.  Now “slip” is the French/Malagasy word for under ware or bathing suit.  “How are we going to handle this problem?” I asked.  “Are we going to look at the girl and start taking her clothes off in our minds?” I asked again.  “No” they chimed in unison. “Is it  wrong to see a beautiful girl?” I kept prodding.  “No” again in unison. ” So what do you do?”  trying to kick start their thoughts.  “You thank God that she is beautiful and give her back to Him”  they replied.  ‘That is right” I heard myself say – thinking how amazing a little indoctrination works.  I explained to them,  in no uncertain terms,  that I know exactly how their minds work.  I was a teenager myself.  I know that girlfriends are like magnets and Satan is lying around every corner trying to trap them.

I will give you the account of Sunday, my favorite day of the trip.  We woke up and had a breakfast of rice porridge and eggs.  Iris also has a base in Mahajanga, run by Rachel, a missionary from the UK.  We were joining her for church in the morning.  You could see her base from our house.  The only problem was, that there was an estuary between. In the morning, the tide was out and it took us about 30 minutes to make it through the estuary to her base. With tide out and hardly any water – muddy shoes was the only complaint.

The gate was open upon arrival. The guard, children and housemom did a great job welcoming us.  We started worship and I could not contain myself.  Tears were streaming down my face – dripping on the concrete below me.  I haven’t  sensed God’s presence and unconditional love, in such a tangible way, for so long that it completely overwhelmed my senses. Even my emergency brake did not work this time.

After worship, we had the boys give an account of the pictures and words they received.

Fifi:  “I saw the leaders of the base in a mighty wind and the hand of God holding them steadfast.”

Miranto: Had a picture of himself asking forgiveness and saw God pouring the oil of forgiveness over him.

Fanomezantsoa: Saw God holding His arms around us , protecting us. Rajo:  had a similar picture.

Nicola I:  Felt that God was very happy with us.

Nicola II:  Saw a very dark place and with worship to God, the light came.

Naly:” God loves us.”

Jean Claude: Felt unspeakable peace and love that almost had him in tears.  He saw angels  next to us worshipping the Father and Jesus pouring oil over us.

Tafita: Had a picture of the wind which he felt was the Holy Spirit and said that if we don’t breath the wind/ Holy Spirit we die.

Tantely: Heard a voice, “Worship is the way to come close to Me.”

Maurice:  ” I saw us going into a cavern and coming out shining  white every time.  The enemy came against us – again and again.  We went in and came out shining white. After a while, the enemy gave up and knelt before us.” Intimacy with God – the cavern.

After the service we had a time where Rachel and her team had words for the boys.  The words were an incredible encouragement.  A place for each of the boys to hang their hats.

On our way back, the tide had come into the estuary,  and our walk way had turned into a water way.  Stripped down to our under ware – dignity out the back door and Sunday clothes on the head – we embarked on our crossing.  Some of the stronger swimmers led the way.  Soon I, the tallest, had water up to my armpits with the tide rushing in at breakneck speed.  Some boys unable to swim, made for an intense quest.  It took quite a bit of fervent prayer, yelling, washer pinching, and maneuvering  to get all across in one piece. God had mercy – we are all alive to tell the tale!

The rest of the week was a complete bliss of playing and eating until we could no more. Pictionary was a highlight, with me laughing until I felt my belly crack. I even had a chance to play rugby in the shallows and had a few of the boys, with attitude problems, eat some sea weed – a glorious day! I feel so incredibly fortunate to see how God orchestrated every small detail of life.  He blew me completely out of the water and the boys had a blast.

Bless you, guys!

Michiel

Act of faith

It is our school break and on a Friday we take the boys out to pray for the people in the community.  You know how it feels when you do something for the first time.  Fear runs about inside of my being like a bandit in hot pursuit of my jugular vein.  It takes all of me to strangle him and to convince myself that I am not in control.  We pray and hit the road.

Tantely and Jean Claude (two of the Center  boys) are in my group.  I inform them that they are at the helm of the ship.  The bleached folk (foreigners) would follow their lead.  Jean Claude, a natural leader takes the helm.  He leads us to the market area, where he identifies a man that he feels needs prayer.  I look at this man, and I think – Jean Claude, buddy – why not choose somebody that is obviously sick?  This guy has overalls on and is pushing a wheelbarrow with a big smile on his face.  Why him?  God was just putting ” oh ye of little faith” into action – setting me up to embarrass the crap out of myself.  Jean Claude stops him and asks him if he has something that we could pray for.  ” Yes”  the mans replies immediately and rolls up his sleeve to reveal a bandage of his whole left forearm.  Surprise strikes me like a wad of snot right between the eyes. That doesn’t even take the cake.  With me still grappling to get my senses about me, he prays for the man, right there and then.  The man moves his arm and says the pain is completely gone. Needless to say,  I am quite undone.  What an awesome God we serve!

We traverse further through the market to the rubbish dump.  People are working their way through the trash and some are just sitting around.  Flies are coming after me like kamikaze pilots.  It takes quite a bit of self-control not to franticly start swatting,  Then pride bails me out, with his little voice, reminding me that I will look like a clown flailing my arms around when nobody else is fazed by them.

Tantely identifies a lady sitting that he wants to pray for.  He asks her if she is in need of prayer.  She replies that she has a sick child at home, but can’t stop working because she is the only source of income .  He starts praying and this time I’m on full alert.  I hear this little voice meander into my mind – ” Ask her if she prays to her ancestors?”  Tantely translates –  she says she wants to break with it.  We pray and God does His thing.  She says she feels free.  I would have loved to see what happened to her child, but we have to wait on that one.

Tantely identifies another lady, sitting nursing her child, that he feels needs prayer.  As I walk over, I notice a puppy with a rat half it’s size in its mouth  – casually strutting with his prize.  My Western mind kicks into reverse gear and I have to double take to get my focus in place.  Tantely asks her what she needs prayer for.  She says that she is on drugs and wants to be free.  He prays and I ask her if she felt anything when he prayed.  ” I felt God told me that He really loves me and wants to set me free.  I felt a lot of joy and peace.”  Wow! Wow! Wow! I feel my spirit doing backflips in my being.

Why should I have the privilege to see God use the least of these?  Two boys who live in our Center because they came from families that are completely messed up. Why? Totally humbling – I must say!

Don’t let fear govern your being – you are worth so much more!

Love you, guys!

Michiel

 

The voice of a child

Nicola II plays the guitar and  I remind the boys to listen to God.  After our time of worship, I go around the room and ask each boy: “What did you hear and what has God been teaching you this week?”  Here is the account.

Maurice:  ” I had a picture of dark clouds and when we started to worship, they went away.  I saw a picture of God putting flesh on dry bones. God has been teaching me to pray for my enemies – give them water when they are thirsty.”

Tafita:  ” I saw a picture of a mango tree with two mangoes in it.  Two boys climbed the tree and picked them.  One of the boys ate his mango and the other left his.  The mango that was not eaten, rotted.  God told me the mangoes are the Holy Spirit. Some people take Him on and He gives life – others don’t – and it leads to destruction. This week, God has been teaching me about love and forgiveness.”  On another occasion, during worship, Tafita, saw a ladder with us going up and down to heaven.

Naly: ” I just felt peace.  God reminded me to pray for those who are sick this week. ”

Patrick:  ” I did not hear anything.  God taught me to be faithful to Him.”

Tantely:  ” I saw a dirty heart and when God came, He cleaned it.  My relationship with God is going well.  I am walking close to Him.  I struggled with temptation with the girls this week.  I want to be faithful to mine. ”

Nicola II: ” I saw a lamp with a letter next to it and when I got close to it, the lamp went off. ” I asked the boys, what they think the interpretation is.  They say the lamp is God and the letter is His word.  If we are scared or have no faith, it turns off.

Fifi:  ” God gave me a verse, Deut 6:5-6 . Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength.  These commandments I give you today are to be on your hearts. It is going well with my relationship with God.”

Nicola I:  ” I felt peace during worship.  This week, Rivo, our guard, was sick – I prayed for him and he was healed.”

Radjo: ” God told me He is love, and no other love compares.  God has been teaching me about wisdom.  He gave me the verse about the ant that works hard and stores away his food. ”

Miranto:  ” Nothing, and I am not close to God.”

Jean- Claude: ” During worship in church, I chose not to look at the other children but,  to look to God.  I saw Jesus on the cross and He had tears in His eyes.  It really touched me, that the tears are for me.  The next day I had to play soccer and I was hurting all over. I asked God to heal me, and He did.”

I told the boys that I saw a picture of the ocean with the waves crashing on the shore.  I felt the ocean was like God’s love that keeps crashing over us.  I ask the boys, if the waves ever stop.  “Never” is the unanimous answer.  Then I see a massive fish, trying to drink all the ocean’s water.  I share that I felt like the fish was the evil one, trying to devour God’s love for us, but to no avail.

I start to teach about God’s peace and how it patiently waits to occupy our minds.  Then I get this picture of a bird, trying to land on a branch, but the branch is moving so much that it can’t land. I explain to them (and myself) that if our minds are constantly consumed by solving our and the world’s problems, there is no room for Peace to land.

How about we lay down our frantic quest to solve it all.  Make room for Peace to land!!

Love you guys,

Michiel

 

Air I breath

With two of my children embarking on a journey of their own, our house has been besieged by an eerie silence.  Misha (my oldest son) loves worship and had the house filled with ample of it – guitars, keyboards, iPods, You Tube – anything that could make a contribution – did so. For better of worse, the stillness has awaken a plethora of thoughts running about in my brain looking for a spot to park the car.  Unanswered questions has a man perplexed.  So here is how I feel the Light has been trickling in.

It dawned on me, the only reality – sure thing – is God.  He is more real than the: air I breath, my thoughts, the flesh on my bones, what I have, what I didn’t have, my self orchestrated  perplexities, how I do or don’t fit into society, my perceived contribution to humanity etc.  He is the only real thing – eternally all encompassing.  If He didn’t give  me my next breath – I’m done – that’s it!

How can I have the audacity that I can be in control of anything?  It saddens me to admit that I have lived a royal illusion for quite some time.  Hidden treasure does not come easy.  Please pray for me, as I work my mind around this concept, and embark on a journey of total surrender.

Remember the hair on your head is counted. He has put your boundaries in pleasant places.  His thoughts about you is like the sand of the sea and they are good.  You are the apple of His eye.  Nothing can separate you from His love – mind boggling I’d say!

Love you guys,

Michiel

 

Misha

I look back over my life and especially over these last two years in Madagascar. I know that God is alive and He hears our heart cry.

I left America expecting huge/radical supernatural breakthroughs in my life. I mean after all, it was Heidi Baker right? This leader in the faith, someone I want to be like, someone I aspire to. It didn’t happen. I didn’t roll on the floor or have heavenly visions. I felt the same. I was still messed up Misha. The one who couldn’t push though any wall. The cycles of addiction to porn still continued.

Then we arrive in Madagascar. Wow, what a shock! Come to find out people are people. This amazing Iris Madagascar… was full of broken people just like me.

Those first few months I remember like a nightmare. We slept on mattresses on the floor. Masturbation introduced himself to my life – loneliness… intense loneliness. Seeing pain all around, seeing children play on trash and the raw terror in prostitutes eyes. The worst was realizing that I had nothing to offer. I was dying inside, how could I help? Out of hopelessness I would be full of rage. I would scream and punch walls. You get the picture.

Now lets shift our focus to the worthy One.

In all my brokenness He was there. Over and over He would come with tears in His eyes, telling me about His love for me. He has taught me so much – yes, but more than that I have begun to discover the heart of my King. His is the answer. If He is small to you then this is terrible news, but if you know how great, how alive, how able he is… it changes everything.

It is not my responsibility to change anyone. If you think it is your responsibility to change anyone, you will die pretty fast. (Just meet some missionaries/ preachers/ whoever, you will see this to be true.)

I am because He is. I’m on a journey in which, on this earth, I will never be perfect, no one will – that’s Ok. He still accepts and radically loves us more than we can imagine. On this journey I am out of control. I am just growing more and more in love with Him. The more I know Him, the more I am like Him. The more I can represent Him in a broken world.

There is much for me to learn. He is the most amazing teacher. I have sinned and messed up over and over. He is the most amazing forgiver and redeemer.

Now I am so satisfied with my life. I have no regrets. I would gladly die today and not feel any sorrow or remorse. This is how alive and amazing my God is.

Blessings,

Misha

 

Tantely

Tantely is a teenage boy, who came to Iris from the rubbish dump because of severe abuse in his family.  Unlike some of the other boys in my small group, his relationship with God is steadfast and inspirational.

“How did your exams go?” I asked the group.  The answers roll in from “ratsy”- bad  to “yo-yo” – so-so.  Tantely raises his hand and says he has a small testimony.  He starts unpacking how he did not, like the most of them, study for his exam.  The teacher handed out the test, he looked at it and did not know any of the answers.  The first thought that came to mind was to take a quick peek at his notes and copy the answers.  Then he hears a small voice “Tantely, that’s not right.” In a daze he sat staring at his test, at a total lost as to what to do.  Then it came – in his mind he sees a picture of the exam with all the answers.  Stunned he frantically writes them down.  So much so that his neighbor asks if he had some magic.  “How did you know all the answers?”  Simple obedience with an amazing reward!

On the way to school one morning, running late, he finds himself in a quandary.  Somebody needed help with carrying a heavy bag, and he just knew that if he does – late and punishment will be imminent.  He asked God to help – helps carry the bag and somehow  miraculously made it to school on time.  How amazing is that?

On another occasion, in the local market, he sees a sick lady and prays for her on the spot.  A few days later he runs into her again and elated she shares that she is completely healed – wanting to serve his God.  Tantely has found a place to hang his hat.  Never again could he doubt that his God is real.

During testimony time I ask the boys what God has been doing in their lives. We get to Tantely  and I ask “How about you ?”   “I have been praying  for my family on the rubbish dump” he says.  ” One day I prayed and God showed me a picture of Jesus walking hand-in hand with my mother and brother.” On this occasion  I think I needed a car jack to assist my lower jaw into the closed position.  ” Wow, Tantely that is amazing” I hear myself say.

This month saw our innards at war with the third world.  Andreas started the amazing race with hurling his supper all over his bedroom floor.  That saw me, in the wee hours of the night, on my knees cleaning – begging God to keep mine in.  Misha made the next sprint.  Thank God that he made it in time.  Mari followed suit and the throne room  sounded like  a cacophony  of intense expression.  Minds were at wits end, having to make split second  top or bottom decisions. The worst is when a man sneezes and has to wash his  underwear.  Enough said.

Be blessed,

Michiel