Sunday, November 15, 2009
3:22 p.m. Today's project was to enter in and partake of the most significant part of our son Steven's world: The People's Church of Fresno. I had heard so much about this church, from God's leading him to join, to his call to ministry there, that I was very eager to visit. I am blessed to be reporting from Steven's new hometown for another day!
We arrived at 9:15 in the high school building after a long and bracing walk through the huge, beautifully landscaped parking lot. Indeed, "huge" describes quite a few aspects of this fellowship, including Oasis, the high school ministry Steven helps lead. While he went to a brief leaders' meeting, I walked about taking pictures and being greeted by everyone I encountered.
An outgoing and lively leader called the service to order at 9:45, and a very diverse group of college and hugh school students all rose to pray and worship. I enjoyed the young worship group, so full of the Hoply Spirit. I was impressed by the many events planned for the kids. The "Nacho Libre Luchadora" theme night is one outreach coming up, where kids can invite their unsaved friends for nachos, of course, and dress in appropriate costumes, play games and have Christ-centered fun. Other events planned include tackle football with other church groups, since many of Fresno Christian High's football players students attend Oasis, with powder puff competition for the girls; and doing construction at Biola during Thanksgiving break.
Small group time: all of the kids had signed up for one of four breakout groups: Prayer (which I attended), worship, digging deeper in your walk, and studying the Word. The session on prayer was taught by Marta Escarcega, Director of the 7 Mountain Worship Intercession Network in Fresno. This retired school principal had been called by God to begin the work, after a ministry of intercessory prayer spanning decades, even teaching the subject for a Christian university in Israel.
Steven had introduced us, we exchanged information and cards, and Marta's session began. Each attendee shared briefly their experience with prayer, including a girl who serves as chaplain for Fresno Christian's football team, a young man who has been on the prayer battlefield for his friends, some who had seen miraculous answers to their parents' prayers, and those who had never known prayers to be answered. Talk about a diverse group!
My goal was, and is, to continually grow in my personal prayer time, because, even with many years of participation in intercessory prayer, for Harvest Crusades, church needs, prayer chains for emergency needs, journalling, and the keeping of a prayer notebook to record 20 years of prayer requests and praise reports, I still see room to grow and the Holy Spirit convicts me daily of allowing distractions to invade my mind! I couldn't wait for the session to begin!
Marta taught us the difference between 5 major types of prayer, and gave examples of the power emanating from intercession here in Fresno. The Mayor herself has called for prayer over their city, and prayer events abound. 7 Mountain ministry and others go up to city workers at lunch time and offer prayer out on the sidewalks, with very encouraging, grateful responses.
I was fascinated when Marta described prayer implements, warning that not all methods are appropriate in all places. She herself had climbed to the top of City Hall and blown a shofar, the Jewish ram's horn, over the city last week! Amazing, just like the pastors of Fresno who meet in 14 clusters by location to pray monthly over the city.There is prayer for the sick at a doctor's office every Saturdy morning. I could go on and on, but she and I will be in touch...I sense a real change about to influence my teaching ministry...Lord, do Your work in me, and the women whose lives I touch!
The next 5 weeks will see a continuation of the breakout groups at Oasis, and I expect that Steven will report much growth in the kids' walks with Jesus. He was so at home, circulating among the kids and other leaders, ministering and fellowshipping, that the heart of this mom is at peace. Even though he is 6 hours away, my baby boy has been called here!
As Steven came to fetch me to go to the regular service in the main sanctuary, I told him and Marta both that I had sensed something different about Fresno-- a peace and calm I couldn't put my finger on during my last visits. We agreed that we know what it is:GOD'S PEOPLE ARE PRAYING!
II Chroncles 7:14: "If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins and heal their land."