REVIVAL FIRE IN CHITONDO
“It should be fine, unless otherwise.” I couldn’t help but think of these words spoken by a Zambian friend, trying to encourage us as we headed towards Chitondo. Our team included the Kohn family, two Zambian friends, and Bernabe and myself from HFTW of Las Cruces, NM. This was a grueling 13-plus hour trip to a remote area called Chitondo, in Northern Luapula Province. There is one dirt road to get there, very little electricity, no markets, only one working well, and some 5000 people spread out in 12 small villages, covering some 30 kilometers of swampland, in the Savannah Plains.
Here, Chief Chitondo and his elders warmly greeted and thanked us for coming to help him turn his tribe from witchcraft to Jesus. Though everything about this expedition seemed extra challenging, I couldn’t help but feel like I had never been so supported and was an extension of the faith and the compassion of hundreds of friends standing in the gap, for this epic moment in HFTW’s history. I held prayer quilts in my hands that had taken so many hours to hand make, intercessors had spent hundreds of hours behind the scenes praying and partners made great financial sacrifices to make the journey possible.
All of this began a little over a year before, with the news of unexplainable numbers of tragedies credited to witchcraft in the area, including numerous, unexplainable, sudden deaths. The chief, in desperation had reached out to the District Commissioner of the province, (whom we had the privilege of meeting and praying with). The commissioner had referred the Chief to our host, the chairman of the pastors’ association of Kawambwa, Humphrey Muzamara. Humphrey had led the chief to Christ and told him that Jesus was the only answer. Chief Chitondo pleaded with the pastors to come help him save his chiefdom. Though they began doing what they could, they came to the conclusion that the task required a bigger team and that God was leading them to seek a partnership with HFTW for this task.
The journey included a bus break down in the middle of nowhere, with the bus filling with steam from an overheated generator. After prayer, an hour or so of waiting and the addition of a little water, suddenly it all worked fine again and we never had another overheating problem.
At one of the stops, our bus was boarded by a very drunk and hostile policeman. He made all kinds of threats and was going to take us in on charges of bribery because we had offered him a coke. In the most heated moment, we asked him if we could pray for him. He allowed us and we shared a prophetic prayer. When we stopped, he looked at us stunned, and then slowly held out the coke and said, “Could you please bless this coke for me, too.” I prayed my first-ever coke blessing and gave it back to him. He made the sign of the cross and walked off the bus and waved us on.
Our crusades were to be held at the school yard of a small village near the chief’s house, in the middle of this massive 30-kilometer area. This meant that most people would have to walk miles to come to the crusades and return to their homes in the dark. Though we were able to eventually hire a couple of dump trucks that could bring the people, we realized if people had transportation we would need more than one crusade to make a way for all of the people who would want to come. Over the four days, we estimated close to a thousand different people made their way to be with us.
It was obvious from the moment we started, that the idea of a gospel crusade was a brand- new concept to most who found their way to the soccer field, where we set up our stage. They clearly didn’t know what the songs were about and most just wandered around as we began our service. We heard some were spreading rumors that we were “atheists” and were coming to put curses on them. As we gathered, most were hiding far away, listening behind the trees.
The children broke the ice, as Bernabe and other team members created games for them, while we were setting up. By the end of that first meeting with the kids, they were able to share the gospel with them and all sixty or so wanted to accept Jesus.
The worship team played for almost two hours, as they felt they were in an intense spiritual battle to break the strongholds over the place. Finally, you could sense an open heaven forming. The chief surprised all of us, as he stood in each of our meetings to give a testimony and a dedication. He boldly proclaimed, “We are here so that all of you can come to Jesus and that He can be the Chief and Lord of our chiefdom and deliver us from our evil”.
The first night there were probably around 300 people. I preached on, “God Can Turn It Around.” I talked about Joseph and things meant for evil that God turned to good. I shared about my Mom’s miraculous healing that turned our family around and then brought the focus to the cross and the resurrection and how that means they can all be saved. I saw only a few walk away, but a hunger for salvation rose in the crowd and well over 90% responded to the call for salvation.
Afterwards, we led the people in prayer for healing and deliverance. John Wimber used to say that the anointing feels like “rubbery legs, a slight panic attack with profuse sweating, thoughts like, ‘What have I gotten myself into’ and a two-sentence prayer that you pray over and over inside of you, ‘O God, O God, help God, O God’.” I felt a little bit like what it might have felt as Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal. There were so many that were sick and afflicted, with virtually no medical help available. The Pastors told us that there was only one clean well in the area and many were sick from polluted water issues. Several women had recently died in childbirth because there were no midwives or way to get to a medical facility. Malnutrition was a big problem. For so many, poor health was just a way of life.
As I waited for some revelation, the thought of the woman with the issue of blood came to mind, and that God wanted to heal women with all kinds of abdominal pain related to their cycle. I realized that this wouldn’t have been a likely thing for me to make up so I spoke it out. Then I spoke words about deaf ears, vision problems, and many other things. I had them lay their hands on their body and pray the prayer of faith with me.
I asked those who felt they were healed to come up and give a testimony. Several women came first, to testify of the healing of abdominal pain, then two said their hearing had been restored. The crowds all began moving closer as they began to share. Next, one of the leaders in the area, who could speak English came up and said that he was beginning to see out of his left eye, where he had lost most of his vision. He said that though it was better, it wasn’t completely healed and he would like Jesus to completely heal him. So, in front of everyone, we prayed. He seemed very excited and said, “I think something happened”. I said, “Let’s test this”. Bernabe brought up his cell phone with small text words and the man was able to read it perfectly with his left eye. By the end of that night’s service, it seemed the whole crowd was gathered around the stage dancing and celebrating their salvation and healing. I was even breaking out my best dance moves, as in my heart I was thinking of the song, “We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.”
The next two nights were also amazing, though it seemed there were many counterattacks from the enemy and setbacks of many different kinds. I remembered the verse, “The kingdom suffers violence and the violent must take it by force.” In this earthly realm, as we move in ministry, we are literally pushing back darkness. It’s warfare with principalities and demonic forces that have been given place by the choices of the people. The second night, fires were started all around the crusade site, with flames shooting up to at least 20 or 30 feet. The third night a violent rain storm flooded the place as we were about to begin, lightening striking right in front of us. It hit just as one of the trucks, full of people was arriving. It was concerning that someone might get hurt as they were jumping out of the truck and running for cover. We were praying and knew that our intercessors back home were praying through all of this. I kept remembering the verse from Luke 10:19, where Jesus told us, “I give you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions and over all of the power of the enemy and NOTHING SHALL BY ANY MEANS HARM YOU.”
By the way, when you are in a culture where witchcraft and pagan practices have opened the door to the enemy, the reality of spiritual warfare becomes a totally-visible phenomena. We had set up a healing and deliverance tent to take people, who needed deliverance from demonic possession, oppression, and affliction. Each night in the midst of praying and inviting the Holy Spirit to minister, people would begin manifesting the presence of tormenting spirits in their life. You really see the ugliness of Satan and the occult in this. People would scream, fall, writhe in anguish and have to be carried, as if they were on a stretcher, to protect their safety. As I prayed for one lady, she suddenly fell as if she were dead. She was completely comatose with just a slight heartbeat. As I walked in the deliverance tent in our Kazembe meetings, it sounded like one of those war scenes from a civil war movie where people are having their limbs cut off and there are shrieks of pain. There were little children slithering on the ground like snakes or crocodiles. But the end of the story is that these children, this woman, and dozens of others were delivered in Jesus’ name. They went out rejoicing and free.
On the night of the fires, in spite of the towering flames, not one home or possession in the area was harmed, and no one was hurt. We had declared that “nothing by any means shall harm us,” and that is what the Lord did.
In spite of the oppressive atmosphere on that second night, Chris and Heidi got to pray with a little boy who was in pain and couldn’t walk. They picked him up and held him before the Lord. One of the special memories of the crusades was meeting the Mom and this little boy walking home after the service.
On the night of the rain storm, as I mentioned, everyone ran for cover. We were near a school and many filled three places of shelter in the school, along with our deliverance tent. Even though we weren’t able to have our service, our team divided up and spread into these areas. With rain pounding down on the metal roofs, we shouted out the message of salvation. Even in these conditions, we were able to pray with as many as half of the crowd, to receive salvation. The rains stopped just in time for people to get safely home before dark.
It was very special to have Bernabe with me on this trip. Our intercessors prayed that the Lord would choose exactly who He wanted to go on the trip. Everything worked out for “Ber” to come. As his name suggests, he was the perfect Barnabas for me. He had my back, carried the load for me physically and spiritually in so many ways. One of the ways I knew God was going to use him was the opposition and setbacks that came. Again, it was pressure, problems, and miracles. Bernabe’s passport is from Mexico, and because a visa was needed when we arrived in South Africa, he was detained inside of the airport, just as I walked across the line to the luggage area. Neither of us could cross the line to the other, so he had to spend the night in the airport. We had 8 huge crates of luggage, full of stuff for the Kohn’s and the crusades. I had to ask God for angels to manage all of the luggage. God had already given us favor with Delta Airlines, as they let us take extra baggage for free. Now, two ladies from the airport came right up to me and helped me flawlessly get the luggage where it needed to be. I can assure you friends, that traveling mercy is a real thing.
As mentioned Bernabe, not only got to be part of leading all of the children to the Lord, in the children’s services, but one of the beautiful things he was able to do in a short amount of time was to teach the children to pray the prayer of faith for each other to be healed. After showing them how to pray for the sick, Bernabe brought some children, who were in pain to the middle of the group and had the children pray for them. As they prayed, these children all reported that their pain had left and they were healed.
The last night of the Chitondo crusade was especially significant. It was the night in which the chief and the elders of that chiefdom would publicly hold a ceremony to dedicate the land of Chitondo to Christ. It was the night we were to begin launching the follow-up Bible studies, led by those God had spoken to about being church planters in Chitondo. It was so beautiful that the first one to announce that they were starting a fellowship in the center of Chitondo was Chief Chitondo and his elders.
The time I spent with the Pastors the afternoon before the last night of crusade will stand out as a memory that I will never forget. About 14 of the 20, who had offered to shepherd those who accepted Jesus, committed to help either launch or relaunch fellowships that were already operating at some level, in Chitondo.
One of the reasons this was very special for me was that I had felt I had received from the Lord a burden and a word that He was going to use me, in a fresh way, in the ministry of spiritual impartation. There are references to this in the New Testament. Paul spoke of his desire to come to the Church of Rome, that he might impart spiritual gifts to them. In Timothy, Paul told Timothy to stir up the gifts that had been imparted when Paul had laid hands on him. He encouraged Timothy to hold closely to the prophetic words that he had received during a time of impartation, as they were keys to victory in the warfare he would fight. Throughout the trip, this became a key part of what I realized I was to do and something that God was going to use us to do more and more of in days to come.
I had spent the first week in Zambia, teaching at the National Pastor’s Conference for the Association of Vineyard Churches in Zambia. There were about 300 Pastors and leaders from all parts of Zambia present. Unexpectantly, the national directors, Damas and Glenda Kamfwa, asked me to lead in a prayer of commissioning for about 20 Pastors, who were starting new churches. Damas shared how our coming there, 18 years ago, had resulted in so much being imparted to them, personally. They mentioned how God had used us in the prophetic which resulted in the beginnings of compassion ministries. We had a powerful time of ministry at the conference and they asked if we could bring a team next year, especially to help in a National Women’s Conference that God has put on their heart to organize.
In Kazembe, at another Pastors’ gathering, this same powerful ministry began to occur. One young pastor named Kennedy, my interpreter at the crusade, spoke to me as the service was beginning. He basically said, “I have always dreamed that someday I might do what you are doing in preaching crusades”. He started sharing impossible dreams God showed him about his ministry. It was so interesting because in the night, I had felt the Lord had spoken to me. I was reflecting on the great ministry evangelist, Reinhardt Bonnke, who had seen some 5 million people come to Jesus in Africa. I was proclaiming his vision of a “blood washed Africa”, a continent that would be completely covered in revival and felt the Lord saying that He wanted 10,000 Reinhardt Bonnke level of evangelists released for ministry, in this generation in Africa.
As I was speaking in the service the next day, I saw Kennedy, and felt prompted in the middle of my message, to pray for an impartation in Kennedy’s life to be one of those evangelists. As he stood and I prophesied over him, the Spirit hit him and he flew back several aisles into the arms of some catchers. All I did was point at him when this happened.
In Chitondo, I knew my time with these Pastors would be such a precious and important time. I reminded them that Jesus promised us not just fruit but fruit that would last. I told them that a new Christian without a church is like an orphan without a family. I told them that what we had been doing was not the end, but the beginning of revival. We presented them with packages of materials, including the story Bibles and small group materials. The vision is for them to go through the New Testament over the next 10 weeks, just as we are doing here. We gave them the materials to teach the kids and youth, as well. We, also gave them the Proclaimers, audio Bibles recorded in Bemba, their native language.
As we dialogued with the Pastors, I realized just how important these were. I remembered a word the Lord gave us years ago, that HFTW would give ammunition to the armies of God around the world, equipping them to win the battle for souls. It turned out that nearly half of the Pastors present did not own a Bible of any kind and were not even able to read. I wish you could have seen the smiles on their faces as they listened to the Word on their Proclaimers, knowing that they could soak in God’s Word and be able to communicate the Word to disciple others.
We, also gave each one was a quilt that Georgia had made for them, and our intercessors had prayed over. I read the verse that was on several of these quilts from Acts 26:18, “…to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” I said, “My friends, this is a very special verse to me. This was what the Lord spoke into my heart, when he called me to the ministry 45 years ago. He showed me a vision with lines of blindfolded people, heading over a precipice into Hell. I was told to run and take off the blindfolds, pointing them to Jesus. I saw Jesus standing with His hands out to them. As they came, He healed them, embraced them, and showed them this shining path of hope”. I told them, “We have begun this together. Hundreds can now see and are in the arms of Jesus, but this isn’t the end. It’s only the beginning. There are thousands more who are still unreached, while these who have been reached, desperately need spiritual mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. They need to be taught all that His word commands them, so they can get their full inheritance and live free from Satan’s power. I won’t be here after tomorrow. I wonder how many of you will take this same calling and carry it forward in Chitondo? Would you take the challenge to see that everyone in Chitondo hears about Jesus, including the children, as well as the old and young?”
It was very emotional for me as I shared and heard their resounding response. “Yes, yes”, they said, “We will carry forth the work!” We prayed, commissioned, and spoke words of impartation. We explained that Chris and Heidi Kohn, my daughter and son-in- law, had promised to return and help train and strengthen them. Also, that HFTW had appointed a local missionary, Gladys Muzumara to meet weekly with them for training and support as they start their churches and Bible studies. We hugged each other and celebrated the vision of what we sensed would be a growing fire of revival after we left.
The gratitude of these Pastors for HFTW went on full display. One precious lady, whom I referred to as Lydia, had waved us down in our bus, the first night of the crusade so that she could come and bring her crippled husband to the crusade. She was touched and her husband was healed. She was so moved that she announced that she was going to start a church in her home that week and would invite a pastor to come and oversee it. She also brought our team a huge bag of Casaba that she had grown from her garden.
I will also never forget, Maxum, a man whom God called to be a pastor. He didn’t have a Bible and couldn’t read, but he now had his Proclaimer. As soon as the crusade was over, he said to pick him up down the road when we leave, as he had something for us. We ended up calling him “Brother Flash” because we will never understand how he moved so fast. He took off running in the dark. When we finally got to him, which we estimated had to be at least 5 miles, in 30 minutes or so, we found him on the side of the road, smiling from ear to ear. He was holding a huge bunch of bananas he had cut down from his yard to give us, to say thank you.
The last night of the crusade, we first introduced all of the new Pastors and told the people when and where the Bible Studies would start that week. Then the chief came up and prayed a prayer of repentance for his people. He claimed 2 Chron. 7:14, where God promises that if we will turn from our wicked ways and seek His face, He will hear from Heaven and forgive our sins and heal our land. He confessed the sins of witchcraft and other sins. He dedicated the land to Jesus and pleaded the blood of Jesus to break every curse. I, then, prayed and the people held up their hands in confession and repentance, as he poured water off of the stage, a symbolic act, asking for the cleansing of the land. What a moving sight that was!
I then gave the last message of our time there. The sermon was entitled, “Who is on the Lord’s Side.” I referred to times in the Bible, such as during Joshua and Moses’ leadership, and later when Elijah confronted the people over their worship of Baal. I read verses such as, “I set before you life and death, choose this day whom you will serve.” My grandson Liam had brought a long rope with him to play with and climb trees. At my request, he and Chris stretched out the rope about 30 feet from the altar. At the invitation, I invited them to make their commitment solid and walk across the line. I reminded them of the water that had been poured out from the stage, signifying this was a place of holiness and surrender to the Lord, that God was inviting them to enter. There was a brief moment of quiet, as people were watching to see who would go first. It was the biggest crowd of the week, and many people were listening at a distance, on the other side of the field. Suddenly, the crowd burst across the line. As far as I could tell, everyone came forward to confess salvation and dedicate their lives to Jesus.
The chief specifically asked if we could pray for “ALL” the people, individually. One after another they came. Our team, including the Pastors, prayed for every man, woman, boy, and girl, laying hands on each one. We finished the night, briefly explaining the baptism of the Holy Spirit and inviting the crowd to hold up their hands, if they wanted to receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit. What an incredible sound, as you could hear the sound of heavenly tongues being released through people, as most of the crowd had their hands stretched up in worship.
Much of the ride back to the hotel and late into that night was spent reflecting on what the Lord had done and just being in awe of Him, who so loves and longs for the people He died to save. Since then, we received word from Pastor Humphrey, who excitedly told us that Pastor Darius, had just met with another chief in the area, who accepted Jesus and is asking for the same thing to happen in his chiefdom. I thought, what an amazing way to have witnessed what we’ve all prayed so many times, “Ask and I will give you the nations for your inheritance.” (Ps. 2:9)
People have asked, “What does Chitondo mean?” What might be the significance of the name? I had found out that the name means BIG RAT. Though that isn’t a very inspiring thought, I suddenly realized, that Jesus had been lifted-up and the Big Rat, who had bound and afflicted these people had been cast down! Glory to God!
The last word I have received from the Pastors was a simple message, “PASTOR DALE, REVIVAL FIRES CONTINUE TO BURN IN CHITONDO!”