From America to... Reading?
You'd think that spending 36 hours a week in a Prayer Room for ten straight weeks would give you ample time to discern from God what He was asking you to do next. At the very least, in fact. Quite frankly, I expected to leave our three months at IHOPKC not only with a detailed blueprint for the next twenty years of my life, but also with specific dates for key future events such as when the antichrist will emerge on the world stage and with an unparalleled understanding of the Book of Revelation. Maybe, in retrospect, my priorities were slightly off.
We had just finished the first leg of our promised six months away - three months at a House of Prayer in Israel - and were just about to begin the second and final leg, three months at IHOPKC (International House of Prayer Kansas City). If you haven't already, you can read more about what brought us to IHOPKC in my previous blog. Though our time in Israel had not been without uncertainty, it had been nice at least knowing that God still had something planned for us afterwards - even if minor details such as the exact nature and whereabouts of our stay in America remained elusive. Out in America we did not have any such specific word or promise. God gave us repeated assurances that He knew where we were going - promising us a future with a house, a family and finances - but we ourselves had no inkling at all of where exactly we were headed. In some ways it was an even bigger test of faith, choosing to trust God for something we could not see on a path that seemed to be leading nowhere.
As our time at IHOPKC went on we did start to form a vague outline of what we felt the rest of the year would look like. I say vague, because as far as I was concerned it felt like I was looking ahead through a steamed up window - I could see something, but I had no strong conviction that what I thought I saw was actually what I was looking at. As far as we could make out, this was what God had for us next:
Go back out to Israel in April - ideally with a place of our own and a car. Spend three months serving at Succat Hallel, praying and writing an album.
Come back to England for a couple of months. Attend some weddings (ones we'd been invited to). Start planning how we were going to finance part three, which was...
Go back to Israel! This time in more of a leadership capacity, potentially helping to lead the internship that we ourselves had done. Experience leadership and discipleship and start "doing" some of the stuff we'd been learning.
Come back to the UK and do something crazy super spiritual. Start discipling. Lead worship. Pray. Sing. Eat bacon. Etc.
We had fallen in love with Israel over the course of our time there - I make no secret of that fact - but, in truth, we were ourselves slightly unsure why we would be going back to Israel so soon. It seemed to be what God was saying, but as I said, I had nothing like the assurance about it that I had experienced when God spoke to us about Israel and America. It was almost as if something crazy and completely unforeseen was about to impact the entire world and God knew we wouldn't believe Him even if He told us about it.
At this point I'd love to be able to recount miraculous tales of God opening doors for us to go to Israel, of revival breaking out as we began secret discipleship groups, of world leaders inviting us to play our music in front of millions of people... but that is not the story I have to share. Something called coronavirus (you might have heard of it) started making the headlines, and a week before our course was due to finish we were given three days to leave the country. It was a very unexpected and slightly surreal end to our six months away, to say the least. The manner of our departure from America felt incredibly rushed and chaotic, but God had gone before us and there was nothing rushed or chaotic about His leadership. In the short few days between booking our emergency flights home and leaving America, God did the seemingly impossible and managed to provide us not only with a beautiful place of our own to stay in but also a car for us to use - we were blown away by His provision for us, and couldn't escape the funny feeling that maybe this was also part of God's plan for us.
Over the next few months we started to see what I believe were the first fruits of all that God had been doing in us when we were away. Going out to Israel and America was more than just an exercise in faith, and certainly more than just a final world sightseeing tour before we have kids - it was a time of God sowing into our lives. We didn't have to wait long to see results - within two months of coming back we had written a whole album, every song rooted in our experiences and revelations from our time away. As well as this, quite unexpectedly we started our own little "House of Prayer" with a dear friend of ours who we met in Israel. Each day, over Zoom (naturally), we began praying for the government, the church, Israel and various other issues on God's heart.
As exciting as all this was, I admit we were still very unsure as to quite what we were doing. I think, in retrospect, I was still hoping for a word from God, saying "Go here!" or "Do this!" However, as it became increasingly apparent that such a word was not going to come, we began to feel a fresh wind blowing. We felt God inviting and encouraging us to start dreaming with Him and exploring the gifts and passions we carry, and it was out of this process that our desire to build our website and pursue this new album was birthed.
Though this year certainly didn't pan out how we expected it to, as the dust has started to settle it's been amazing to realise we're really not that far from the path we thought we'd be on. As planned, we did indeed spend April, May and June praying and writing an album - the only difference being we did it from our own living room, not from Jerusalem. July and August were spent very similarly to how we had envisioned - planning ahead, starting to build a business and thinking about fundraising. Bullet point three is still unfolding, and clearly we're not in Israel, but there's a very definite "stepping out and preparing for future ministry" focus to what we're doing. As well as fundraising for the album and thinking about ways to share its message, we're spending time with our intercessor friend very tentatively exploring what this "House of Prayer" could look like and what resources we can create to help equip and build up the church. And as for bullet point four... watch this space!
There are plenty more stories to tell, and a lot more to recount from our times in Israel and America (which we will do in due course), but hopefully I've given you a bit more of a context to where we are, what we're doing, and where we think we might be going. Unlike my previous two blogs, I'm afraid I can't finish this one with a nice, tidy, happy ending. We're still waiting to see where this road leads, and still trusting that in His timing God will bring every promise He's made to us into being. But as I look over God's incredible faithfulness to us over the last year, I'm reminded that He is a very good leader, and we are in very good hands.