Wednesday, I had felt strange enough throughout the day that I decided to stay home from Bible Study that night. I was grateful that I made that choice as just about an hour after dinner, my stomach seemed to decide it wanted no part of my body and insisted on throwing itself out in any way possible. I will withhold the gruesome facts that occurred that night, but throughout the whole night, I was sick and when the morning finally dawned, John and Stacy had decided to take me to the hospital in Tema.
Even though I had nothing left in my system, my body still seemed out of rights as John drove me in to Tema in Lydia's car (ours is "out" more often than "in" these days). After meeting with the doctor and paying for my file (of which I was charged more for since I was white, which is a story best left for another day), I was admitted to be rehydrated.
The nurses got an IV started, but apparently, my lack of fluids caused an extremely dizzy spell and I practically collapsed on the nurse trying to connect my IV. She graciously let me lean on her until I had regained my sense of balance, then laid me down on the bed and pumped in an IV drip before I was to be trusted to be up on my feet changing into my hospital robe. Then, John left me with money for food (which sounded completely unappetizing...and still does), juice, crackers, and prayer covering. Within a matter of an hour, my phone ran out of battery (as I had neglected to charge it while I was undergoing my stomach issues the night before), and I was alone.
At first, this made me completely anxious. I was worried that others would worry. I wondered how John would know when to come and pick me up. But, soon enough, the warm afternoon air calmed my busy mind and sent me to sleep.
When I woke up, I was grateful for my iPad's newest Kindle download, Chasing God by Roger Huang. Before evening rounds begin, I had finished this book, inspired and encouraged by the way God had moved in Roger's life and ministry.
In 2012, John and Stacy joined me on my home church's young adult retreat to City Impact in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco. This district, only meer blocks from SF's Union Square, houses thousands of the cities down and out, the hopeless, the addict, the lost. City Impact, founded by Roger and his family over 30 years ago, provides hope through education, food, prayer, family restoration, and so many more ministries. It was a sweet, sweet weekend moving from ministry here in Ghana serving the orphaned, abandoned, and trafficked, to serving the same population on the streets of San Francisco.
And as I read his book, it was Roger's heart for prayer and fasting that moved me the most.
He spoke again and again about God's provision for the ministry through Roger's heart cry in his times of fasting and prayer.
I loved when he spoke about praying and fasting for his building to be renovated...praying and fasting for God to move to provide for a new building for his ministry...praying and fasting that God would provide for a home for him and his wife...praying and fasting for his children to return to serve with him in San Francisco...and God moved each time when his heart was laid down in surrender for these things.
One of my favorite stories he spoke of was when a strip club was moving in next door to their ministry's school building. He was so angry about how this would even be something allowed legally, but because it was in the Tenderloin, everyone looked the other way. And he was fed up. So he talked with his wife and they put together a list of things that needed to be policy changes that would effect the needs of the people in the Tenderloin district--street cleaning, Parks and Rec taking increased care to clean and manage the parks in the area, increased police forces making their rounds through the area, limited numbers of liquor licenses being granted in the area, but perhaps foremost on his heart was regulations regarding strip clubs and other sex industries being given a required distance from any school or church building.
Roger knew that these things would begin to make huge changes in that district, if granted. So, a friend of his drafted a letter to the mayor and various council members in the city offices and the day that the the letter was put on the desks of these prominent men and women, Roger began fasting and praying for change outside of City Hall. He sat in front of City Hall, a sign reading "Hunger Strike" hung around his neck. He had promised in that letter that he would remain there, without eating, without bathing, without a comfortable bed, until these changes were made.
About two weeks into the hunger strike, the Mayor came out to meet with Roger, claiming that he would be willing to make some changes, but it was certainly unreasonable to think that all these things would be made possible. But, Roger held out hope. These were the most basic of needs for the community he had learned to call home. And so, the fast continued. As did his notoriety. Many came to interview this man and his dream of change in the Tenderloin. Word was getting out about the conditions of the poor in the Tenderloin and the Mayor needed to do something about it. And on the 33rd day of his hunger strike, the Mayor came out from his office and told Roger that every single item on his list had been passed into law. And even more, the strip club that was supposed to be moving in next door to City Impact's school, had agreed to sell their building to City Impact instead, to expand their ministry there. I was blown away by this man's dedication, his love for the people of the Tenderloin, his desire for more of The Lord. And because of his pursuit of God, God chased him right back, expanding and growing their ministry to something that now manages thousands of volunteers, serves thousands of children and families, and loves on thousands of those lost and seemingly unfound in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco.
So, when I went to sleep last night on my hospital bed, my stomach grumbling from lack of food (and it's recent upset), alone in a strange place, I knew that this was exactly where I needed to be. God had taken me to a place of rest to learn more about His heart. To learn that these rumblings in my stomach can turn hearts towards him. That entire cities could be changed through those who press in deeply to the things of God.
And I slept. A deep sleep, much needed, only awakened by the nurses and the change in my IV meds or fluids.
And this morning brought me to Nehemiah.
Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said: “ Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’ “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king. (Nehemiah 1:2-11 NIV)
God's heart was broken for His people. And so he sent Nehemiah to gather the people. To pray and fast together. To be broken for the sins of their people. And to begin to rebuild. To restore their people. Their city. Their wall.
And as God drew me to Nehemiah, I was reminded of our people here...the Shai people. These people are a scattered people, all coming from different people groups and homes. They live in so much darkness (both literally and spiritually), but God is chasing them and I truly believe that we have been called to be the Nehemiah's to this place, the watchmen on the wall for these communities. We have been called to pray and fast, to see God move in them to rebuild and restore. I believe He will do it. As Stacy keeps saying, "What God has done here in the natural, God is about to do in the spiritual." It takes people willing to pray and fast to see God move, to break chains of spiritual bondage, to be ready for Him to powerfully change the lives of all those willing to turn their face to Him, to press in to the deepest things of God to bring about lasting change.
It was a beautiful revelation this morning, that I don't think I would have recieved had I not been alone, sequestered, hungry, tied down with an IV. God brought me there to rest, but He also brought me there to show me all these things. That this is His vision for us at CORM, but also His vision, His broken desires for the people in the communities in which we serve.
I left the hospital this afternoon, still tired, my stomach still not completely mended, but so much better than the day before, both physically and spiritually. And while I wouldn't recommend a hospital stay as a form of rest, it was what was required and I am grateful. (IV's are not fun though, and I am grateful to not have them stuck in my arms anymore.)
And so begins the next stage of where God is taking us, and hoping to see Him move in powerful ways through the lessons of Roger Huang and Nehemiah.