Monday, March 26, 2012

Nome Journey Pt. 2: God Loves This City!

A picture I snapped the night of the prayer walk--midnight on Front St.

In the Narnia books written by C.S. Lewis, there is a phrase that makes me tingle: "Aslan is on the move." The 4 children from England have been magically transported through the wardrobe and into a world unlike anything they've ever known... and even they can tell that there are whispers of strange happenings; electric anticipation in the air and quiet longings and unspoken desires swelling to fulfillment. And then Mr. Beaver answers their wondering with this phrase: "Aslan is on the move."

"And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken [his name] everyone felt quite different.... At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer."

Have you ever felt like any of them? Maybe the mysterious horror of Edmund, or the sudden brave adventurousness of Peter, or the inexplicable delight of the girls? I'll bet you have; maybe even recently. (Kinda' interesting: Google "Aslan is on the move" and you will find that this phrase is being floated about by Christ followers everywhere because it exactly describes the feeling we're getting.) Except, it's God. God is on the move. We can feel the rumblings and we can feel the swelling, tension, and anticipation in the spiritual realm like some sort of contraction a mother must feel before the birth of her baby.

I'm still reading the soul-stirring book, Red Moon Rising. (It takes you a while to get through a book when you're reading 4 at once. Bad Dani.) I read it on the flight to Nome and at times had to pause in my reading, reach up to shut off the overhead light and just breathe deeply as tears welled in the back of my throat... I had to think about what I was reading and why it was so hugely stirring my heart. God is raising up an army of prayer warriors in the world. This book documents the start of it (the 24/7 prayer movement). And I can't help but believe that the only reason He is stirring people to pray is because He is wanting to unleash His power and glory and mercy on this world again. Maybe for the last time before the end comes. That thought fills me with anticipation that can't even be told. And I'm not the only one. People I'm talking to from around America (around the WORLD for that matter) are feeling the same things. There are rumblings in the spiritual realm that are being felt on earth. God is on the move. Something is about to happen.

There's another dimension to my trip to Nome that I didn't mention in the last post. Just because it is so different from the rip-roarin' good time/Iditarod junky/snow machining crazy lady side of me during the trip. I didn't quite know how to meld the two Danis into one post! As I've been reading Red Moon Rising and begging God to pour out His spirit in a Great Awakening on this world, I've had this pulling in my spirit to pray for Nome. IN Nome. But that seemed impossible. Once the ticket came though, I felt very strongly that one of the reasons I was going to Nome was to pray for Nome, right there in the city with local believers. I don't really understand it, to be honest. I'm not sure why God put that on my heart because it's not like I'm the greatest pray-er or even a very effective pray-er, from what I can tell. Maybe God just sees my longing for His fame and wants to let me be a part of what He's going to do in Nome.

Do you believe God can love a city? I have the heart of a missionary so it's really easy for me to believe that God can love a tribe, or a people group, or a country. But a city? I've never been hugely into the "urban" thing. Yet I think God does have a special heart towards cities. Not the buildings and parks and streets themselves but the people who live in them. I think Scripture makes it clear that Satan sets his demons as "princes" over certain cities (Daniel 10:13 for example)... so if HE is interested in binding certain cities in darkness that must mean that God loves that city and has a plan to use it for His glory. Perhaps in the heavenly realm battles wage over earthly cities and the souls therein. No idea, I'm just conjecturing. Cool thought though. (A little scary thought too, eh?)

As I was on the plane to Nome I told the Lord that I'd be faithful to pray for the city while I was there. Didn't really have a plan, just thought I'd get a few folks from the church together and we'd have a late night prayer meeting for their city or something. It didn't pan out. Iditarod week is CRAZY-busy in Nome and everyone had things going on. There wasn't too much interest in an extra prayer meeting because there were already regularly scheduled church services, etc. Two night before I left, I lay in bed and thought about it.

"Well, God, it doesn't look like the Prayer-For-Nome thing panned out. But I tried. I asked a few people. It's awkward to MAKE something like that happen in a city I don't even live in." Suddenly I was overcome with the feeling that if I hopped on that place out of Nome without praying for Nome, I'd be making a huge mistake that I'd regret for a long time. God had given me this desire, and for me to reject it would be a big, big no-no.

So I figured that I'd just do my own prayer walk the next night. No need to have a huge prayer meeting. Then I asked my brother-in-law Nathaniel if he'd want to come, because two is always better than one and he has a HUGE burden for the city of Nome. I put out a notice on Facebook and some faithful believers from here in Ohio committed to praying with and for us, even though they were 4 hours' time difference and thousands of miles away. It ended up being Nathaniel, RuthAnn and I the next night; standing on the corner of Front St. at 11:00 at night, freeeeeeezing cold (it was around 15 below zero that night, I think)! We huddled in the van for our preliminary prayer and then headed across the street from the church to the first bar in the long line. As we crossed the street a figure emerged from the bar, walking carefully on the icy sidewalk because the alcohol had made him a bit unsteady on his feet. My heart sank as I recognized that coat (In Nome, in winter, you recognize people not by their faces so much as their winter wear!) from the yellow light of the street... a friend of ours. A believer in Christ. We met on the sidewalk, and he didnt' want to meet our gaze. He spoke a little more slowly than usual but tried to make small talk about the job, his day, the weather... but then Nathaniel looked him deeply in the eyes and said "We're walking the streets, praying." The words hung in the air, mingling with the fog from our breath. I won't judge my friend for drinking. I don't judge him for grabbing a burger at the bar. But my heart broke because I knew him well enough to know that the fellowship he was trying to enjoy late into the night, the one-to-many beers he downed were a cheap attempt to try to fix the loneliness, the desire for community, the hunger for a deeper walk with God that burned inside of him. The Prince of Darkness over that city sees to it that there are ample opportunities for the lost and the found alike to drown their thoughts in booze and superficial fun and the sense of community that lasts for a VERY little while when you're laughing with other drunk friends over the counter of a bar. We prayed with our friend and then he disappeared into the blackness of the night around a street corner. We continued praying for him again, after he left.

And then we proceeded to slowly trudge down the street, praying for each building we passed, each person we passed as they stumbled in and out of the bars or huddled in wobbly groups, laughing raucously and glancing at our quiet little threesome curiously. We laid hands on buildings and prayed for the men and women within. We peered through the grimy, icy windows of the bars and prayed for the souls inside. We lifted our hands to heaven and prayed against the powers of darkness and beseeched God to shine His glory and power on that little city in the middle of nowhere. It felt to me like we were a tiny little army of three, surrounded invisibly by the favor and power of God, breaking through strongholds and forcing back the ugly darkness and oppression that can hang like a mist over the streets of Nome. I love that city. And I believe God does too. The drunks on the street didn't see much when they looked at us, but I think the demons that Satan has stationed around Nome saw a blinding, terrifying, purifying light searing it's way through the street. I think they trembled. I think maybe even some of them were banished.

I won't describe our prayer walk anymore. Suffice it to say that it was a powerful, cold, too-short time. I left it with numb feet and a heart on fire. We knew that God walked with us and we knew that He was hearing our prayers and would answer them. (Oh, and the very next day He sent two specific answers!!!) It invigorated our faith and filled our hearts with joy!!

There is a chance that a coffee shop/safe house/youth center/church extension with be built in Nome soon. The thought makes me want to freak out with excitement! The possibilities are endless and the ministry this would provide to the city is an incredible thought! No one in Nome has ever done anything like this before (though the Pastor and my brother-in-law have DREAMED and begged God for an opportunity like this for years!!!) there are so many questions; such a big learning curve. How do you start a cafe', let alone a safe house!? How do you recruit workers? How do you minister to street kids and bums and drunks who come looking for a warm drink and, unwittingly, the Love of Christ? What is God envisioning such a ministry to look like and how could it come to be? Please pray that as the believers in Nome ponder this, God will give them wisdom to know what should happen and how. And when. And where, for that matter. :)

This is a picture of the BOT Saloon, the oldest and most famous bar in Nome. The sign above the door reads,

I'm beginning to love the possibilities I see for ministry in the city. (ANY city, not just Nome, but Nome in particular.) I see that God has a heart for cities and not just remote areas that have never heard about Him. That's a good place to be as I pray "Lord, SEND or KEEP me anywhere!" If He wants me to start a prayer room right here in W-worth, or if He wants me to travel to the ends of the earth to make His name known in a place where it's never been spoken, I'm going to be willing.

Please pray for Nome!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

NOME Again! ~(Or, "A Wordy Post about Speechlessness")~

Wow, there just are no words!

Well, words... yes. (Otherwise no blog post.) But adequate words? No.

God gave me a huge, huge, HUGE gift last week. One I was neither expecting or imagining! I've been missing my sister and her family in Nome SO much. Incredibly. To the point of tears, at times. And then March rolled around--(March is Iditarod season in Alaska)--and anyone who's read this blog or known me for any decent length of time is probably aware that I'm an avid Iditarod follower. :) I posted a little blurp on Facebook about how bad I was missing being in Alaska for Iditarod, and got a call a few days later; a lady "from the Martin Buser Fan Club." She declared that I had been selected at random to receive a free ticket to Nome so I could "Come greet Martin Buser at the finish line!" :) Buser is my favorite Iditarod musher. As much as I like and admire the man, though, the thought of meeting HIM under the burled arch paled in comparison to the thought of surprising my sister and dear friend RuthAnn!! ( ...But I wasn't planning on telling that to the "Martin Buser Fan Club representative. Some things are just better left unsaid. One doesn't bite the hand that feeds one, if'n ya know what I mean.)

So actually, the Martin Buser Fan Club doesn't really exist (maybe I should think of starting one. Hmmmm...), and the sweet voice calling me actually belonged to my friend Nora, who lives in Nome and read my teary Facebook status. She GAVE ME ALASKA AIR MILES to fly me from Chicago to Nome!! I "just happened" not to be scheduled at work the week of Iditarod, and there "just happened to be last minute tickets to Nome available at the busiest time of year. God is kind, infinitely kind. Wow.

So off I flew to Nome, just marveling--literally!--the entire trip that God was giving me this gift. I know He doesn't always give us everything we want. I'm more than ok with that. But here He heard a half-breathed, faithless prayer (And the prayer was, I quote: "Lord, I just want to be in Nome so bad right now!") and He put it on Nora's heart right out of the blue to fly me up.

Like I said, there just aren't adequate words. I just kept breathing "Thank you, thank you, thank you Lord!" As I gazed out my plane window at the clouds and stars and snowy mountains below. The "Thanks" was certainly exacerbated by the fact that there was an empty seat next to me on the flight from Chicago to Anchorage so I could stretch out a bit. :)

Nora and I made plans for me to surprise Carlee and my nieces and nephews and RuthAnn. Right there at the finish line, they were all waiting for the second musher to come in and I surprised them. RuthAnn screamed like a crazy lunatic lady. (Those tend to walk the streets in Nome so no one thought much of it.) Carlee just stared at me at first... then her face scrunched up--comprehension dawning slowly-- and she just cried and cried and hugged me! It was beautiful. I think it was the coolest surprise I've ever been a part of. There was so much JOY!

Nate, who lives in Anchorage right now, came in also for the Iditarod finish. So Carlee, Nate and I were together. It was reminiscent of last year (blogged about here) when all FOUR of us siblings were together!

Enough words. I'm supposed to be speechless.


Under the Burled Arch with Nora:
(She's the "Martin Buser Fan Club" fabricator, friend, and benefactress.)

Record snow fall in Alaska this year, and my nieces and nephews are mountain climbers!

Wesley chillaxin' after a long day of snow machining, sled riding,
and...well just being his cute self.

Caleb, our little jolly 'Lub. Still the baby! And he brings SO MUCH JOY!

Shaina suggested I take a sled "for boxes" when the three of us walked into town to check the mail,
but noooo. Auntie Dani did not take her niece's advice
so the three of us ended up walking the half-mile home with this load!
Go ahead. Laugh.

RuthAnn and I at the musher's banquet with Aliy Zirkle, a personal favorite this year who mushed to Nome in 2nd place! Here's to 1st place next year, Aliy!!
(RuthAnn, Nate and I had a blast at the banquet. :)

It was awesome to see my sister feeling strong enough for a long snow machine with her hubby!

Nate, RuthAnn and I snow machined to the last Iditarod checkpoint before Nome, called Safety.
It was sooooooo fun. :)
Even though we had a snow machine malfunction.

My brother being the awesome uncle that he is:

I got a sweet little kiss from one of the four-legged athletes of the Iditarod!

..And I sneaked a photo op on Lance Mackey's sled when he wasn't looking.

Martin Buser, his wife Kathy and I at the finish line!
If you can't tell from the pic, we're practically family.

Martin and his son Rhon crossed the finish line together. It was pretty epic!!!
Here they are just yards from the finish line mushing down Front St.

Musher Hugh Neff crosses the finish.

My dear family and I under the Burled Arch. (Really; it's up there, ya just can't see it.)
I love how Caleb is trying to lick his coat!

As I stood in line for my flight back to Ohio I was crying, of course. But then I saw that none other than 4 time Iditarod champ Lance Mackey was going to be on the same flight and that cheered me up!! RuthAnn took my picture with the clueless musher as we stood in the TSA line.

Then I took this picture from the plane window, of my family and RuthAnn waving goodbye from their vantage point up on a hill, and the tears started flowing all over again.

I love you guys so much.

I am so blessed to be your sister and friend!