As the staff of Back2Back headed into the summer of 2010, Matt Cooper (a staff member) said, “This is going to be the greatest summer of our lives,” expressing the sentiment of many other staff members, myself included.
Just prior to the summer, a period when we enter into eight solid weeks of crazy, hectic schedules, we had had a staff retreat to fuel our spirits in preparation. We invited a pastor from the States to come down and lead us in a time of spiritual formation and something tremendous happened amongst and within many of us during that time.
For me, a longtime pastor, in some ways I might say that I found the Lord. I had known Him for 29 years but during this retreat, the Lord met me in a profoundly new way that has transformed who I am and the way that I will forever do ministry. Many other staff had equally profound experiences. For me, the Lord delivered me from a deep depression that I had fallen into for a couple years. Battling this depression, during that time, my marriage and family suffered, my friendships and ministry relationships suffered and life was just hard and no fun. But God completely and totally healed me and set me free from this debilitating sickness and in the process, showed me new ways that I could expect Him to show up in my life.
As summer began, we as a staff decided that we wanted our mission trip guests that would visit us this summer to have the same opportunity to experience some healing prayer as so many of us had, in hopes that they would have the same kinds of life-changing, faith-changing experiences that we had had. So the decision was made that every Wednesday night we would forgo the normal debrief time (a time when groups gather with a staff member to process what they had experienced that day) to have a time of extended worship and healing prayer. I was asked to share my testimony of what had happened to me to begin each of these nights.
And God has shown up and done some tremendous things.
We have seen people confessing and being set free from many areas of their lives where they had previously been in bondage. Jesus told us that he came to set us free. God’s intention is that we do not muddle through life trying to figure out ways to get by and cope with the various areas of bondage and captivity that produce so much suffering in our lives. God intends for His children to be set free and as He has shown up each Wednesday night, we have seen this beautiful miracle of divine love every time.
Some people have found salvation through Jesus Christ. Others have identified with my depression and have sought freedom from it as well. Others have just wanted, like I experienced, a newness in their faith. And God has shown up. Let me tell you a little of what I mean when I say that “God showed up”.
I remember one night praying with Tim, a summer staff member. We had prayed for a few people when we had a bit of a lull. As worship continues during the prayer time, we each just proceeded to join in the worship. As we were singing, I felt what I can only describe as a change in the atmosphere around the palapa (the thatched roof structure in which we were worshiping). It literally took my breath away and I became fully aware that I was feeling the Holy Spirit as he descended upon us.
Within a split second, before I could say anything, Tim turned to me and said, “Ahhh, do you feel that?!” He was feeling the exact same thing that I was feeling at the exact same moment, in the exact same place. Why? Because I believe that God showed up. And when God shows up, people’s lives are changed. Each Wednesday night this summer God showed up and each Wednesday night, people’s lives were changed as they met Him and were set free.
Now at the end of summer, I echo the words of Matt Cooper and say that because God showed up, because people’s lives were changed by being set free, and yes, this has been the best summer of our lives.