In terms of workers, the city where long-termers Keith* and Mandy* live had always been a bit of a dark spot. For years, the worker population had never topped more than a handful of couples.
A few months after Keith and Mandy moved into town, they hosted a short-term team. After dinner one night, Keith dropped the young men off on the corniche, the paved walkway paralleling the sea and asked them to spend time praying over the city and listening to what God said.
Rupert*, a civil engineer and one of the short-term team members, later shared what God had revealed during his evening stroll. “As I walked down the corniche, I could not work out why they needed to have so many lights so close together,” he said. “As I was in my head, trying to work it out, God spoke clearly: ‘I’m going to bring more lights into this place, more than people would think is necessary. I’m going to illuminate this place.’”
That prophecy was fulfilled four months later, when Keith and Mandy learned more workers were moving to the city. The newcomers, sent by other organisations, quickly joined the inter-company community starting to emerge. “People [here] are not company specific, they’re collectively working together,” Mandy explained.
“We’re all bringing light that’s not been here before, and the enemy is against that,” Keith noted. “I don’t think the gospel’s every been proclaimed as much as it is right now.”
With the workers in place, Keith met with the couples that had been in the city the longest. “I think we need to start thinking strategically and building community in this place,” he said. “First, we want prayer and fasting on Sundays. Second, we want corporate prayer… We don’t want little empires; we want one strategic vision.”
The older workers endorsed Keith’s desires, so he sent an email organising the first corporate prayer in the city. “We got together, and one thing that struck us was we could not believe that 90 percent of people could make it. We sat and we prayed and we worshipped for six hours,” he recalled. During that prayer meeting, they took time to involve the kids – worshipping with them and blessing them – then they asked God to reveal His will for the city.
The pictures, and subsequent dreams, some of the workers received were startling: an arch of curses placed over the city and a counterfeit suit of spiritual armour deceiving locals.
From that first prayer time, more meetings evolved, including weekly gatherings for both the men and the women to intercede. Together, the worker community continued to pray into the city and reach out to local friends. “The truth is we’re convinced of the gospel going forward holistically. We are definitely speaking about the kingdom of God [to locals], we definitely want to get the Word into their hands, and we definitely want to love and serve them,” Keith stated.
However, Mandy cautioned, ongoing strategic prayer “must be the building blocks and the foundation. If you’re going to do the ministry [but] if you’re not wiling to do the strategic prayer, the rest is a waste of time.”
Ben* and Linda*, long-term workers who have lived in their North African city for seven years, ten in the country, said that the inter-organisational worker community there “is praying fervently for an unexpected harvest.”
“We have the sense that God is preparing, that we’re all in preparation for [Him to] move,” Linda shared.
Their ultimate vision – for the Gospel to multiply between locals – still shows little evidence of happening where they live. “I have no clue what God’s doing in this city,” Ben admitted. “But the evidence that He’s doing something is this worker community. We are an international, spiritually diverse group, but we each have a story.”
Several years ago, Ben and a colleague started a summer prayer group. Eventually, those people began meeting a second time during the week. Both meetings stuck, showing that God is moving, Ben and Linda explained.
“What does encourage me again and again and again is those scriptures that talk about us being the light of the world and being the fragrance of Christ, and when we are together as a worker community, I see that the Lord has brought us from the four corners of the world,” Ben stated. “None of us have any reason to be here, and yet each of us have a story of how God drew us to this city. We are all here together in this city. Something compels us to rise together two times a week, when [locals] are still sleeping, to pray.”
Once a week, the workers meet on top of a nearby hill, Ben described. Early in the morning as the city wakes up, they pray together. “Every single week, I have the sense in my heart that God watches the city, that God looks over the city with the heart to draw people to His truth. The fact that we are there, saying, ‘Have mercy on these people,’ is the evidence that God is longing to answer the prayer that He plants in our hearts… It’s a profoundly supernatural thing that draws us together to pray.”
“We pray pretty big prayers,” he continued. Together the workers ask God for “tens of thousands that would be declaring faith in Jesus—that there would be these overwhelming celebrations when light has come, when truth has come, when freedom has come.”
When long-term workers Caleb* and Natalie* arrived in North Africa 14 years ago, spiritual discussions with locals often led to arguments. “People were resisting,” Natalie described. Lately, however, she’s heard more stories of workers having conversations with locals who want to know more. “That’s quite a key shift for me,” she said. It’s also an answer to prayer.
“We prayed for years that God would open people’s hearts and minds,” she explained. Seeing it happen now “creates a sense of urgency that this season might not last forever.”
Between inter-organisational country-wide prayer weekends where workers interceded for particular themes; a cross-company city mapping scheme for prayer walking through neighbourhoods; and weekly prayer gatherings, “there’s been so much focused prayer in the last four years,” Natalie stated. “That’s part of preparing the ground for what’s to come. The more people have prayed, the more faith has risen that God is doing something in this country and will bring the harvest in.”
Still, she said “it’s worth praying into what preparation needs to happen before the day that the church is large. Now it feels like there’s been that season of preparing the ground in terms of praying for the harvest, praying for the openness, praying for the fruit.” The next step, she suggested, was praying for the church – when it grows – to receive favor in the eyes of the government.
“People’s interest in prayer worldwide seems to be growing,” Natalie commented. “There’s been a growing sense of wanting people to see the connections between prayer and evangelism…God’s preparing workers in terms of coming together and being more thoughtful in terms of how they go about reaching their cities.”
“Things are speeding up so fast, and God’s doing so much in this part of the world, that we don’t want to waste time. We don’t want to duplicate what’s already being done [in terms of prayer], we just want to pray more and encourage others to pray more. We want to be keeping up with what God’s doing.”
Nicole James is a journalist, ESL teacher, and adventurer. As a writer for OM Middle East North Africa, she’s passionate about publishing the stories of God’s works among the nations, telling people about the wonderful things He is doing in the world.
Published: Wednesday, 18 January 2017
Credit: Nicole James