Becoming Aware of Spiritual Warfare and Putting on the Armor of God
"Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground."
To be completely honest, I don't know much about the Bible. It sounds strange, doesn't it - a missionary who doesn't have all the stories of the Bible memorized. I'm trying to change that on the Race by reading the Bible - so far I'm on Numbers, and if anyone has any insight to the Pentateuch, please let me know.
Month three was the first time I really took a good look at Ephesians 6 and the "Armor of God." To let you in on a little about Madagascar, we had some very strange things happen there. As much as I loved Madagascar, there was definitely some spiritual heaviness unlike anything I have ever experienced before. Sex trafficking is pretty big there, and we saw several "massage parlors" which were really just fronts for other services. There are witch doctors in Madagascar who sell potions and trap people into spiritual bondage by putting curses on people in the name of healing and who open the spiritual realm for darkness to enter. People pray to their ancestors and at night, those of other religions will dance on their relatives graves. We heard unspeakable evils that happen in the country, things I don't even want to type because a part of me still refuses to believe those things happen.
My heart also broke in Madagascar time and time again when I saw orphaned children living on the street. They would come up to us with their extended hands open, their innocent eyes pleading with us. What do you do when you can't save them all? I have an image burned into my memory of a little child, no older than two or three years old, sleeping on a pile of trash in the middle of the chaos of Antananarivo, the capital city.
Madagascar was a country of highs and lows for our whole squad. This month was our "all squad month" so we all lived and worked together - about 20 of the girls living in a bunk room on the Operation Mobilization Madagascar compound. The first week, over half the squad got sick with strep throat. I was lucky to (mostly) escape being sick. But other unexplainable things started happening at night.
One night, several girls were woken in the middle of the night by screaming, as one of our squad mates had a nightmare. Several of my friends said they felt a spiritual heaviness in the room right before. The next night, I woke up and heard several other people around me up and moving around restlessly. I saw some shadows on the ceiling but prayed for protection and went back to sleep. Several girls said they heard music, drums and chanting outside and saw shadows crossing in front of the windows.
The next night, we wanted to cover the place in God's protection - so we had a "night watch" which is when people take turns praying overnight. We also started praying and physically acting out putting on the "Armor of God" prayer before leaving the compound in the morning. When we arrived back at the compound, before entering, we prayed that any spiritual darkness that had attached itself to us throughout the day would leave us before we entered.
To be honest, before I started doing missions, I don't know if I fully believed or understood the way the enemy works in our lives. But I'm realizing more and more on this journey that the more we step into the light, the more the powers of darkness will try in desperation to cast shadows on your soul.
In Madagascar I also recognized Satan's voice for the first time in my own life. The way he attacks me is similar to the way he attacks many women. The enemy whispers about my self worth - telling me I'm not good enough, that I'm being rejected even when I might not be, that I fall short of the acceptance that I want and need from my friends and others.
It happened a night when the entire squad was together. I was talking with two of my friends before our meeting when one of them cut me off in the middle of my sentence. A few minutes later, another friend asked me to move from where I was sitting because I was in the way of others. These things weren't meant to be taken in a hurtful way at all - but soon after, the enemy's voice was magnified in my mind.
When I first heard his voice, I was shocked. Mainly because for 33 years, I had no idea that those things I believed about myself weren't from me at all - they were lies from the enemy. The first time I recognized his voice, I also realized I was too weak to fight it on my own. How many times have we heard the enemy's voice and even believed his lies and not recognized where those lies were coming from?
It is so important as Christians that we recognize the enemy's schemes and also equip ourselves to fight against them.
I write this to you from a seminary in Cambodia - where we are teaching students how to speak and write in English. Never in a million years did I imagine myself teaching at a seminary, but here we are, pouring into and helping equip the next generation of teachers and preachers in Cambodia. God's pretty amazing like that... and it's also amazing how that teaching is 100% reciprocal. I've been working with students in a Bible study class. Each day we have the students read a chapter out of a book in the Bible and then have them memorize a verse or two. Today we studied the armor of God, and I thought about how much the armor of God has helped us over the past two months of the race and in my life.
How often we need to put on the full armor of God - the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. The shield of faith to help us extinguish the flaming arrows of the enemy, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, the word of God.
What are the ways the enemy is working in your life? What are the ways you can fight against it?