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Micael Grenholm, a Swedish charismactivist, apologist and author.

Micael Grenholm, a Swedish charismactivist, apologist and author.

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Surprise Sithole on poverty, aid and how it feels to raise the dead

Mr Sithole and me

Mr Sithole and me

One of my best experiences from my visit to Iris Ministries South Africa this summer was to meet and do a interview with their leader Surprise Sithole. Surprise has, as I’ve written before, had an amazing life with many miracles as he has been preaching the Gospel and helped the poor in southern Africa. In the interview I asked him how he likes the idea of combining miracles with peace and justice, what his conception of poverty is and how it feels to see God raise someone from the dead. This is what he answered:

God vs Poverty, part 2: Giving

This is as the title suggests the second part of my God vs Poverty series.

Rich folks are experts on producing arguments why we shouldn’t give to the poor. Have you also heard Christians using this Bible verse as Bible proof for inaction:

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Cor 9:7

Was Paul’s point really that if you are a grumpy, greedy Scrooge McDuck, God is perfectly fine with that? No, of course Paul wants us to be cheerful givers, and he states in the next verse that we will be poorly rewarded in Heaven if we aren’t generous on earth, but his point is that we cannot force people to be generous. Giving to the poor still is our duty though: to refuse to give to the needy even if you’re able to, is sinful (Deut 15:9).

Another argument against giving to the poor is an unbiblical one: aid doesn’t work. This is both applied to foreign aid and giving to beggars on the streets. In the former case, people blame corruption and other structural problems, or they simply state that aid undermines incentives to work. In the latter case, people blaim drugs and other social problems, or state that rewarding begging undermines incentives to work.
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Suffering, Worship and Glory: Iris Ministries in the Congo

Every now and then the amazing missionary organization Iris Global releases their video newsletters on Youtube. This week’s video covered their ministry in DR Congo, and I was just wrecked by it. So much pain. So much suffering. And yet so much love, dance and passionate worship. Not to speak about the amazing signs and wonders they experience.

I’ve written about Congo before, it’s a country the Lord has put on my heart. It began several years ago when I got so upset hearing about that our cell phones and computers have financed the devastating Congolese war that has killed 6 million people. Thousands of women have been raped, and every day aroung 1500 people die because of the malnutrition and diseases the war produces – half of them children. What does the Kingdom of Christ means in such a horrible situation?

Well, it means everything.

Worship at Iris Bukavu, DR Congo. Photo: Iris Global

Worship at Iris Bukavu, DR Congo. Photo: Iris Global

The worship in the video above is amazing. The passion, the love, the zeal – it makes me breathless. Many of these people have experienced things that are unimaginable for me. And yet they do not question the goodness of God, instead they seek it more intensely.

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Video: Signs, Wonders, Peace and Justice

YouTube wanted me to do a trailer for my channel, so I made this one, which I from now on also will have on the about section of this blog. It’s a video where Surprise Sithole, Heidi Baker, Simon Adahl, Andreas Cucca, Michael Liliequist and me share why we believe that it is important to combine miracles with activism. Heidi shares when she saw food multiply, Simon when the Lord gave him a prophetic word of knowledge about aid relief and Andreas when he saw a lame beggar in Guinea being healed. And I do some quick Bible studies about when charismatic activism appears in the Scriptures. Enjoy!

When Heaven Invades Africa

The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the good news are being preached to the poor. – Mt 11:5

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From a Crusade with Christopher Alam

I’ve known Andreas Cucca for over a year through the internet, but today I got to meet him in person for the first time. He is working with the Swedish organization Go Out Mission and has participated in almost 20 crusades all over the world, primarily Western Africa and Southern Asia. I kindly asked him if he could share some miracle stories, and he just went off like a cannon ball:

“Wow, where should I start? The blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, cancer tumours disappear! I prayed for a mute man in Guinea that hadn’t been able to speak since he was born, now he was between 20 and 30 years old and his first words were Jesus, hallelujah, amen. Another time I proclaimed that the lame were healed and a lame beggar outside the campaign area was instantly healed, everyone went wild when they saw it! And another time we had prayed that the blind would be healed and a man came to the stage and said that he used to be blind but now he could see. However, his eyes still looked really blurry so we wondered if he really was telling the truth, but he could grab my nose when I asked him and while he was there on stage, I saw with my own eyes how all bluriness disappeared and his eye became normal. It was a creative miracle!”

And so on and so on. These things I expect from missionaries to Africa nowadays, I get surprised if they haven’t seen the blind see and deaf hear. A couple of weeks ago I met James Thompson, an Australian guy who together with his wife Sarah had served for Iris Ministries in Zimbabwe. He shared the most amazing testimonies about a sweet, blind old woman that could see her grandson for the first time after God healed her, as well as about a deaf-mute who started to hear and speak:

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Voices about Iris Ministries

On greatnonprofits.org, there are 31 reviews of the charismatic missionary organisation Iris Ministries, or Iris Global as they nowadays call themselves. Everyone have given five out of five stars. Here are some of the reviews:

Iris Global wholeheartedly beats with the heartbeat of God. They move to bring the love of Jesus to not just the poor, widowed, orphaned but also and always to the person that stands right in front of them. It’s incredible to see and organization recklessly abandoned to take the love of Christ to every single heart that they encounter, without a secret agenda but to solely love! The experience I had with Iris was life-changing, I can never be the same.

My life was personally transformed in immeasurable ways through Iris Global. Never had I been so powerfully and overwhelmingly loved. One thing is being personally changed by a non-profit, but another is witnessing the trustworthiness and reliance one can have in KNOWING so beautifully that every penny invested towards Iris’ work is exponentially having life-giving impacts to both individuals and corporate masses.

When I spent time in Mozambique with Iris ministries I saw the lives of many many precious children, mamas , papas, young men and young woman being changed daily! Not only did I witness a love that was so transcendent I found I was the one that was being blessed by These incredible villages full of transformed people living in poverty but having a richness that could not be added in dollars! I saw children with no hope being given a hope for the future! The work iris is doing worldwide is in my opinion some of the most important work of our lifetime! I believe that through the laid down love of the body of Christ serving with Iris Global we will see an end to world hunger in our life time! Hearts yielded to love.

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Videos from my Trip

Heart for filming

Heart for filming

The first prophetic word I recieved in SA was that I would use my video camera to spread God’s glory. So here are some of the glorious stuff i filmed down there:

Mama Tesia Nicole, South Africa’s version of Heidi Baker, asked me to do a video for them about Village of Hope, their community center in Backdoor which works to improve people’s lives and spread the Gospel of hope. In Backdoor, the unemployment rate is around 80 %, the HIV rate is extremely high and only one third of the youth finish high school. To tackle these problems, Village of Hope includes a pre-school, a feeding programme, a youth center and more.

In this video, Pastor Surprise Sithole shares two testimonies in Iris Revival Church, Nelspruit South Africa: Firstly, a church member has been healed from cancer; secondly, Surprise’s wife Tryphina and their son Enoch saw a castle in the sky. The castle was levitating in the air. Both of them saw it clearly. Suddenly the castle was covered by clouds, and when they disappeared the castle was gone. “What do you think it means?” some one asks Surprise. “Well, a castle belongs to a King.”

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Good Bye South Africa

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The Life of Surprise

Mr Sithole and me

Mr Sithole and me

On the third day of my visit at Iris Ministries South Africa, I was helping the men and children to cook food on a women’s conference. Suddenly a jeep with the Iris logo appeared, and out stepped a man whose big smile I recognized so well. “Surprise! Wow, I’m so glad to meet you! I’ve read your book!!” The smiling apostle shook my hand, told me I was welcome, guided some ladies to the jeep and then pointed at me: “Micael, get into the car!”

We dropped off lady after lady until we arrived to the house of the last one, where all three of us entered. There was a very, very thin and weak man. I didn’t catch what condition he was suffering from, but I eagerly joined Surprise in praying for his healing. Then we left, and Surprise drove me back to the conference.

I met this man’s wife last Thursday. He has had severe problems with his liver and kidneys as well as TB, and has not been working since October last year. However, now he started to feel much better, he went to the doctor last week – and the doctor pronounced him 100 % well. He started working again last Wednesday. Glory to God!

This first meeting of mine with Surprise Sithole was very Surprise-ish. In his book Voice in the Night, he shares his amazing life story. He was born in a family of witch doctors in a small village in Mozambique. At the age of 15, he heard a booming voice in the middle of the night: “Surprise! Get out of the house! If you do not leave, you will die.”
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Village of Hope

The story of Iris Ministries South Africa is to a large extent the story of Surprise Sithole, a man of God who has experienced many miracles. In the mid-90’s, shortly before he connected with Iris, he received a prophetic word from the Lord about moving to a white river. At first he didn’t understand what it meant, buy then he found out that there’s actually a place named White River in South Africa. So he and his wife Tryphina moved from Mozambique to SA.

God continued to speak to Surprise about ministering on “the mountain” – Backdoor, a township outside White River. Back then, Backdoor was known to be a very dangerous place, where the crime rate was very high and robbery was a part of daily life. The Sithole family moved there anyway, and they were severely tested – once they were almost killed by a violent gang. But as their church plant grew and their social ministry expanded, the community started to change.

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As I wrote in my previous blog post, there are still many problems in Backdoor, but the crime rate really has decreased a lot since Iris started working there. Of course, it’s hard to tell if that would have happened anyway, but surely Iris has contributed a lot to the good trend. Its community center, Village of Hope, includes a preschool, a bible school, a feeding programme, a sowing center, a youth ministry and soon also a carpentry. Everything they do is aiming to bring help and hope to the people.
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Crushing the Spirit of Apartheid

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Nelspruit

I knew SA would be unequal, but this is ridiculous. White River is a 100% Western town, with supermarkets, KFC:s, cinemas and luxurious houses with large fences. 15 minutes from it you will find Backdoor, an informal township where thousands live in favelas without running water, where there is 80 % unemployment and where so many are suffering from HIV.

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Backdoor

The contrast is so painful. It’s obvious to all that the poor aren’t poor because of lack of resources, but because they have been oppressed and neglected for decades.

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White River

However, it would be wrong to say that apartheid created Backdoor’s poverty. The swati people living there were probably just as poor before they immigrated to Backdoor, or even poorer. What apartheid does is that it ignores people and denies them their rights. And even though there has been some progress during the later years, the spirit of apartheid is still alive here, separating people based on their colour.

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Stories of Hope from the Syrian Border

As I’ve mentioned previously, Iris Relief is right now helping Syrian refugees in Jordan, bringing food, love and the power of the living God. On their facebook feed as well as through other sources, the team publish several testimonies of hope and relief in the midst of unimaginable suffering. Here are some of those testimonies:

I have been been brought to tears today as I sat with the Syrian Refugees listening to their tragic and horrific stories of what war has cost them. Love looks like something! – Daniel

Our Iris Relief Middle East team had so much favor today and made it into the refugee camp in Zaa-tari where 100,000 refugees are staying. We listened to horrendous stories of imprisonment and torture. We saw inner healings as well as many physical healings as we prayed at each tent. The indigenous Jor-danians said that the kind of breakthrough that we saw today has never happened before. These desperate people are absolutely beautiful and Papa God has broken our hearts for them – Christian

Sitting in a UNHCR tent w/ a family of Sy-rian refugees who fled war only 4 days before, I was blown away by this muffin. At her young age she has lived through bombs, bullets and 2 massacres. 1 of 400 ppl and another of 500 ppl. Looking deep into her eyes, holding her in my arms and echoing each other’s giggles I could only lean back on the goodness of God. No matter how bad the circumstance, his love is ALWAYS enough. Always. His beauty is found in the hope he brings to the hurting, the life he restores to the broken-hearted and the fact that he powerfully pursues us wherever we’re at. We’ve seen so much pain, so much devastation but I’ve never been more in love or filled with more hope. – Cassandra (more…)

Iris Relief Starts Supporting Syrian Refugees

I know, I’ve written about the crisis in Syria before, it shouldn’t be new to anyone that the humanitarian situation there is catastrophical. But things have become even worse. Today, leaders of four giat UN agencies – UNICEF, WFP, OCHA and UNHCR – published the video above were they demand more support for the humanitarian relief in Syrian and neighbouring countries. There isn’t enough money. People die because of lack of money. The political leaders of donor countries are to blame for this of course, but it won’t hurt if we dig in our pocket books ourselves to save lives.

Iris Relief, my favourite humanitarian organization, have now started to work with Syrian refugees. They write:

As of the beginning March 2013, Jordan has received over 320,000 Syrian refugees, with the numbers expected to double or triple over the coming months. There are wide spread shortages of food, water, medical, hygiene and education resources. Jordan is under pressure and struggling to keep up with the demand of the ever increasing basic needs of those seeking refuge. (more…)

Heading to Africa

People from Michael's Children's Village

People from Michael’s Children’s Village

You may have noticed that I’ve written a bit about South Africa lately. Well, that’s because I’m going there. Lord willing I will go to White River, Mpumalanga, in May, and visit Iris Ministries there. They have a children’s home called Michael’s Children’s Village which is led by Mozambiquians Surprise and Tryphina Sithole and Americans Teisa and Jean Nicole.

They’re practicing true charismatic activism. Surprise have seen food miracles as well as people raised from the dead, and at the Village they combine social work and compassion with prayer for signs and wonders. The reason it’s called Michael’s Children’s Village is that the arch angel Michael appeared to them and told them to start it.

There are huge needs of this type of social ministry in SA. Many may think of the country as a prosperous, emerging economy; however, it is one of the most unequal countries in the world. The traces of apartheid are still visible, damning millions of people into poverty while the richest only get richer.

Half of SA’s children live in poverty. 5.6 million South Africans suffer from HIV and over 200 000 die from AIDS annually. And the social unrest make crime very prevalent, making the rich isolating themselves from the poor even more.

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Healing the World: Combining the Gift of Healing with Poverty Reduction

Surprise Sithole

Surprise Sithole

In his great autobiography Voice in the Night, South African pastor Surprise Sithole shares an amazing event that happened shortly after he had met his present co-worker Heidi Baker, director for Iris Ministries, for the first time. Cholera had struck a community, and being a highly contagious disease that could lead to death, most people would run the other way. However, Surprise and Heidi went straight into the fire.

They had to argue with the health workers for a long time before they could enter the hospital tent. Inside, the stench was horrible and the suffering of the people even greater. Surprise writes:

“Heidi walked straight into this disgusting, foul-smelling, life-threatening mess. She knelt down beside people to pray for them. She lovingly wiped the perspiration from their foreheads. She took the children in her arms and hugged and kissed them – pouring out her life again and again. Her courage and grace amazed me, and I tried my best to follow her example.”

As they prayed, more and more got healed, rising from their beds with their symptoms gone. For those who weren’t healed, they loved and hugged them and brought them clean water. Amazingly, neither Heidi nor Surprise came down with Cholera after this event.

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