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By Francesca Carnuccio

There were a couple times when I was hit with the reality of how wild some of the moments I got to experience really were. Jumping and dancing around a fire to beautiful Toposa worship songs under the stars in the middle of nowhere, literally. Some of the young children dancing without clothes, the women wearing nothing but a goatskin skirt, with no sense of nakedness or shame. Could you imagine a service like that happening in the western church? It was moments like this that blew my mind when I took a second to reflect about the significance of it.

There was one night when our team had walked an hour and a half in the dark to visit a church in a valley that had been facing persecution - in hopes of bringing encouragement. We finally got to the church and unlike all the other churches we had visited where there was already an eruption of worship around a fire, we approached this church to find nothing.

No fire.

No songs.

No dancing.

No people.

Our team begins to pray over the land and ask the Holy Spirit to come. We begin to worship in the darkness and surely enough, people slowly started to come. Eventually a women came out of her hut with embers to make a fire. More people gather.

We start to see the momentum growing when all of a sudden two men with whips came out from the field yelling at everyone angrily. Our translators try to talk with the men but there was no calming them down. They were demanding that we leave. Our local contact decided that for the sake of the long term relationships they were trying to rebuild with the village, it would be better for us to go.

Our hearts sank with disappointment and with empathy for the believers that were excited to gather that night. As we were leaving, two women came running after us, one with a baby on her back, pleading with us to stay. It was gut wrenching to leave but we had to honor our local contact.

The next morning some of the believers from that church walked the hour and a half to the village we were staying. We got to worship with them, encourage them with scripture, teach them stories, pray with them, and even wash their feet. It was a sacred moment that spilled into the afternoon. They couldn’t get enough of being together in fellowship.

That night our team was scheduled to walk to a different village that was on the other side of the mountain. It was a long trek but we were filled with joy. Late into the night, after hours of worship and jumping, teaching and ministering to the people we started the long journey back. It was about 11 o’clock when we made our way over the ridge of the mountain only to spot a tiny spark of light flickering in the distance against the dark backdrop of the valley. Our translators stopped us for a moment and pointed out the little light. He said “that is the fire of the church that was being persecuted last night. They decided to gather”.

I was filled with faith. That fire is evidence of the impact that short term missions can have. There is power when the consistency of long term discipleship meets the encouragement of short term missions. That fire was evidence of what God is doing around the world, with sparks of hope amongst the darkness.

If you are feeling discouraged in your city, or feel the weight of hopelessness, know that God is a God of hope, and any little act you do for His Kingdom is a spark against the darkness.

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