I just returned from a weekend conference in Cincinatti. There were some 150 pastors and leaders from around the country, many from Vineyard churches and most self-identified as “emergent church” people. Vineyard Central in Norwood is an intriguing place. The community there acquired a whole Catholic parish center, complete with a cathedral-like church, a convent and house. The community there is part of a house church movement, and many members have bought or rent homes in their working class neighborhood, which includes a growing number of Hispanic immigrants. The group is strong on community, contemplative prayer, the arts and other things, but wants to do more direct outreach to people on the margins right around them. That’s why they invited me, because of my book Reading the Bible with the Damned.
I spoke on the ministry of Jesus and his mission statement in Luke 4:18ff. I told how we at Tierra Nueva have come to recognize the need for continual empowerment by the Spirit to face the big challenges of working with inmates, ex-offenders, undocumented immigrants and the homeless. I recounted stories about how we are learning to expect God’s presence as Advocate before the courts, before the internal voices of accusation and as Healer.
One of the stories I told I also want to share with you. In a recent Bible study in the jail with four inmates I told how the first three men introduce themselves as cooks in restauraunts on the outside. The fourth man in his early twenties introduces himself as a meth addict whose work and life consists in acquiring and using drugs. I tell the guys about Jesus is like a good shepherd who seeks after lost sheep until they are found.
“Who might qualify as lost sheep today?” I ask. “We do,” everyone seems to agree.
“Well, do you see any signs that God is seeking and finding you these days?” I ask.
Just then my colleague Chris notices a shiver go across the face of one of the men. “Hey dude,” he says, “you’re feeling the presence right now, aren’t you?” he asks. “Yeah, in fact,” the man responds. At this point I decide to affirm what God is doing and move in God’s direction, something I’m learning to do. I ask the men if they are interested in experiencing more of God. They all say they want to know God more, so I invite people to put a hand on each other’s shoulder and pray. The man to my right starts shaking. As we continue to pray the phrase “father wound” drops into my mind. I am aware that everyone has some sort of father wound, and especially in the jail but decide to move in the direction of the impresion and say: “Maybe some of you were beaten as children, or didn’t see you dad much or know him at all.” The man to my left who said he was dedicated to acquiring and using drugs tells me how he was severely punished by beatings by his dad as he was growing up. He tells the group how nine months ago he almost died after trying to take his life, stabbing himself seven times! Others share pain of not knowing their fathers. At the end of a short Bible study I sense that God wants to heal someone with abdominal pain. The main to my left says “that’s me,” and pulls up his jail issue shirt to reveal seven knife wounds throughout his abdomen. “I’ve had constant pain where the wounds were,” he says. We pray for him, amazed by the precision of God’s revelation “father wound.” A week later I see the man in another Bible study. He tells me that all his pain is gone.
“I’ve even been able to do sit ups for the first time since my suicide attempt,” he says. “And what’s strange is I’ve had a thirst for reading the Bible, I can’t put it down.”
So there in Cincinatti after telling more stories of being led by the Spirit to minister to people on the margins I invite anyone longing for more of God’s empowering Presence to come up to receive prayer. It seemed that nearly half the group came forward. The next day some of the leaders take me to a Mexican family’s house that make great tamales. There we learn that the Hispanic community in Cincinatti faces the same problems as here: inability to get drivers licenses, problems interfacing with agencies, deportations from jails. I sense God wants to heal our Mexican host, a veteran farm laborer, from a back problem. We end up praying for both him and his wife, who has pain in her neck, lower back and heart. The Spirit comes gently but surely on the two of them and their pain goes away. It is so beautiful to see how Jesus is the same here and now as when he walked this earth– I suppose because he keeps walking the earth through us.
I am also writing to request special prayer for financial breakthrough for our ministries and for a trip I’m taking on March 27-29 to Austin and Houston.
New Earth Refuge is a center for healing, deliverance, impartation and hospitality tied to Tierra Nueva/New Earth here in the Skagit Valley. New Earth Refuge sits on 35 acres. We have build one guest house that sleeps 5 that we currently use for prayer and hospitality. We have moved forward on a larger meeting room and two guesthouses, that are all framed up, with power, water and septic complete. I have a build er who is willing to work to complete the project who will donate his labor. He can begin work as soon as we have some funds. However we still owe $70,000 for the work that has been completed and need an additional $60,000 to complete the project. Please pray for God’s provision of $130,000. Check out my website www.bobekblad.com and click on New Earth Refuge.
Tierra Nueva, a ministry to migrant farm workers, inmates and the homeless that I direct is also in need of help. We just made our Feb payroll March 23 and still need to raise $25,000 for our March payroll, which goes out the first week of April (see www.tierra-nueva.org).
I am traveling to Austin to speak in classes at the Episcopal Divinity School on March 27 and then to Houston where I am a keynote speaker at Christ Cathedral– an Episcopal church in downtown Houston that reaches out to immigrants and the homeless. I really want to see the Holy Spirit poured out on these people. Please remember me in your prayers: for boldness, humility, and clarity of hearing as I speak and minister.
One final prayer request: I am writing a book called On Earth as in Heaven on the ministry of Jesus and the Kingdom of God that is due to my publisher Westminster John Knox by April 1. Pray for wisdom, revelation and discipline to complete this book. Sopresa Sithole of Iris Ministries had prophesied over me in Mozambique in May 2006 that I was to write a book and that it was “urgent, urgent, urgent!”. This book began just after that and has really flowed. It’s been a lot of fun to write so far, though I’m dealing with many sensitive subjects.
Yours in Christ,