THE SUBSTANCE OF THINGS UNSEEN

I couldn’t have been more enmeshed, hot in the pursuit of new students and teachers and desperately trying to find financial backing  for the operation of the Christian school I founded. My 18-hour days had me in a frenetic spin, bouncing from lesson plans, to interviews, to parent sessions, to strategy meetings, to the classroom again. The list of things to tackle grew longer every day, and my job was to come up with plans A-Z to get them done. (In NYC, Plan A seldom worked.)

Although education was my life’s work and I was passionate about the excellence of that school, there was another secret love and the slightest whisper of a voice, calling to me. I usually ignored those promptings, but multiple leaders who were hearing me speak began to tell me the same things:

“The school administrator role is not the mantle you will walk in all your life. God will use you to preach the Gospel.”

Although I wanted their words to go away, the nagging in my spirit was so intense, I finally just expressed my heart to God:

“Father, you know we already have one preacher in the family, and he is doing alright for himself. You don’t need another one. After all, I’m an educator; I am relatively quiet;  and, I’m a woman! Lord, if you really want me to preach the Gospel, You are going to have to tell me directly. I refuse to be “called” by a family member or a pastor.”

God definitely heard that prayer. One Saturday, my usual day for sleeping in, I was startlingly awakened at  5 o’clock by a divine hand pulling at my spirit, drawing me out of bed. The Spirit of God sent me to my living room chair to speak with me. First, He impressed me to open my Bible to Luke 1, the story of John the Baptist.

I knew something supernatural was going on, so I took my time, drinking in every word. Then, when I came to verse 17, it was as though the words were flashing neon:

“He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’”

Immediately I understood God was calling me to a forerunner ministry, trumpeting an alert to the people of God. I would see signs following the preaching of the Word; and He would use all I my experience with those precious inner-city children to frame my teaching and preaching.

In that same session God began to show me the nations of the world. He dropped 3 words into my heart: missionary-teacher-evangelist. I had never heard that three-fold descriptor used of a minister before. When I was ready for my ordination I mentioned that to my overseer. He told me what Dr. T.L. Osborn would tell me years later, “that’s the greatest need in the world today.”

It was crystal-clear. God had spoken; there was no doubt; I didn’t have to confer with anyone. A new call to ministry had been initiated.  About 3  years later, Dad asked me to join his evangelistic team, and the road to its fulfillment began.

That direct, undeniable word of the Lord, spoken that day in my humble Bronx apartment, became the “substance” of things hoped for, as referenced in Hebrews 11:1:

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

The word of the Lord became the “standing order,” and “the title deed,” to all the Lord would work out in my life through ministry. Every time I questioned or wondered if it would ever really happen; every time my faith was tested and nearly shaken; I just remembered the sure, clear word of the Lord and kept moving forward.

That was over 25 years ago.

Over those years, God showed me glimpses of the call. When I first joined Schambach Ministries, Dr. Daisy Osborn invited me to go with her and Dr. T.L. on their second missionary crusade to Uganda. My father sent me with them, and my life was forever imprinted with the overwhelming needs of 3rd-world nations. In 1991 Uganda was still recovering from the war and devastation of the Amin regime. On the 40-mile trek from the airport to our hotel, what should have taken less than an hour to travel, took us 2 1/2 hours because of the crater-like potholes in the road. The people were obviously poor and their population had also been ravaged by AIDS. I learned that over 50% of the population was HIV positive.  Uganda at the time had very few citizens over the age of 50.

That trip to Kampala, Uganda, influenced me in another way. Although the need and outcry for help was great, I saw the power of God to heal and restore in operation. It was so good for me to see this in the ministry of a man and woman team. Watching them in action, I saw a different style than my Dad’s and learned God was not limited to one method of preaching.

Dr. Osborn called for an AIDS night. A quarter of a million people were in attendance, many dying. I had a front row seat, staring out on a sea of people as far as the eye could see. Dr. T.L. began to preach from Deuteronomy 28, “Behold I put before you life and death.” As he preached, it was as though every word he spoke was weighted  and dripping with the anointing. I could feel the deposit of those words in the hearts of the people. God allowed me to sense their faith, like a tidal wave, rise up out of their collective heart. The rush of faith was so strong, it almost knocked me off my seat. God was giving me a revelation of the power of the gospel preached with bold faith.

After the message, Brother Osborn prayed one mass prayer. Then, for the next 2 hours, until it was too dark to see, the people came to give testimonies of how they had come to the meeting with AIDS, but they were leaving healed, freed from pain.

God was giving me a glimpse of what my life’s work would eventually become. I felt like a freshman student entering the school of the Spirit. That glimpse which matched so dramatically the call on my life, was enough to help carry me through the challenging times as the years progressed.

There would be other glimpses and sparks of expectation from meetings in Kamchatka, Russia. I learned firsthand in that meeting what a “breaker anointing” was as we plowed open a communist military region with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and saw 10,000 former-Soviets raise their hands to receive Jesus. There we planted a church which is still planting other churches, some 26 in all. That church is affecting the entire region with the power of the Gospel.

But, as Dad began approaching his 80′s and my mother was entering her last few years on earth, we didn’t do too many overseas trips. My mission was to care for my aging parents and be beside my mother, especially, until she went home.

Although I would never do it differently, those were the times that tested my faith most sorely. I could feel myself growing older with each year, and I felt I was missing ministry opportunities when I should be going full force. I felt a little like Sarah and Abraham who had been given a phenomenal promise, but they had no physical evidence until they were 100 years old. I felt like I would never see the fulfillment of that call.

When my mother passed away in 2010, I was free to evangelize again and I did some travel overseas; but, the work I was doing didn’t fit with the call in my heart. I saw my Dad missing Mother fiercely and growing weary in the battle. I wondered how long it would be until he went Home and when he did, what that would mean for the ministry. In my heart, I still felt as though I needed not to wander too far or too long away from home.

With all the unanswered questions and with nothing on the horizon, Dad breathed his last breath on earth,  January 17, 2012. What could have easily been an ending to his 65-year ministry turned out to be a brand new chapter, laden with promise. By March  2012 the call came for me to preach in Costa Rica, and miracles began to happen.

Something started to stir in my spirit. This was beginning to feel like the call I heard 25 years prior in a little apartment in the Bronx. That one trip to Costa Rica opened the door to South America and led us into Iquitos, Peru. During our Iquitos crusade, on a side trip up the Amazon, God connected me with Belen, the poorest town I’ve ever visited.

Belen seized my heart the moment I laid eyes on her. Ugly, smelly, diseased and forsaken. ..it was calling me to do something. I had carried around for 25 years the substance of things hoped for…over the next months I would begin to see the evidence of things I had only dreamed about since the Lord called me. With the encouragement, humanitarian aide, boats and shoes we provided for 6 village pastors, God began to turn the atmosphere of an entire town, infusing it with the joy and hope of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes my team and I are walking out the pages of the new chapter being written. We have become forerunners, proclaiming the Jesus story and bringing healing to families and communities. We are turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; all because faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.

I have learned first hand that God is a covenant-keeping God. He knows exactly what He is doing, especially in the darkest hours. He uses the wait time to impress on our hearts His voice, His expectation and His unfolding plan. I’ve learned I can always move forward, even if one step at a time, one day at a time. There is a substantive aspect to this faith we walk out–it is the word of the Lord.  I’ve learned to keep walking, clinging hard to His promise and listening closely for His voice. The faith produced in the journey is the title deed to everything He has ever promised and it brings the invisible into sight.