Tuesday, August 30, 2011

fasting and feasting

I've recently returned from a two-week mission trip with the Nativity:Nigeria Mission. My team was assigned to the Faith Alive Foundation, one of our strategic partners in Nigeria. Our team stayed in a guest house about a ten minute walk from the hospital, we met and bonded with the doctors and staff, served alongside lab techs and students, sat in counseling sessions, and even helped out with filing and administrative work. You can read all about our adventures on the Nativity:Nigeria blog.

One evening at Faith Alive, Pastor Ben came to have dinner with our team at the guest house. We stumbled onto the topic of spiritual battle. Pastor was telling to us how diligent he and Faith Alive are about praying for Dr. Chris, his leadership, and especially protection from the devil. Ben said that because the Gospel is relatively new throughout Africa -- he is the first generation of Christians in his family -- the Church is fighting a more intense and often more tangible battle with evil. This really opened our eyes to one of the most remarkable aspects of Faith Alive:  the faith of the community and how it's... well, alive!

Each month there is a spiritual theme and related scripture verse (August's was Looking unto Jesus, Hebrews 12:2). The morning devotions are based on the theme, the prayer team and praise teams use the scripture for inspiration, and the pastors teach and preach on them throughout the month. There's definitely power in having a whole body of believers studying God's Word, learning and growing together -- hey, it's kind of like a message series!

And although you could say that they take their faith seriously, there is such a spirit of joy at Faith Alive. The first Thursday of every month, the community holds a fast. The prayer team gathers at 8am to dedicate the fast and pray for the monthly topic. Everyone works all day, and they meet at the end of the day for worship. We participated as we were at Faith Alive for the first Thursday of August. The afternoon gathering started off pretty normally, even somewhat subdued. We continued to pray and reflect on the fast, but then, at the drop of the hat, the time came to to break fast... The praise team took the stage, dancing and singing followed, then soda and snacks for everyone! It was such a simple celebration yet it was celebrated with such enthusiasm.

That day's feast and Nehemiah 8:10 are good reminders that we always have reason to celebrate. We are facing opposition that we have to take seriously, we have important tasks that need to do be done, but it's all in the context of a battle that's already won for us, we will overcome and God's power will prevail, the joy of the Lord is our strength.

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