Are you looking for a new perspective?

Is GOD calling you to revisit something that He’s shown you in the past? Maybe He’s brought it back to you several times before. If so, may I encourage you to ask GOD for a new perspective on what He is desiring of you?

Last year around this time, I received an email asking me if I would like to be part of a class called Perspectives in World Missions. I learned so much about GOD, His Word, the history of Christianity, the present and future of Christianity, lots about myself…and a new perspective on something He has been calling me to do since around 2001!

I am writing about it now because Perspectives in World Missions is starting again this week and I want to encourage anyone who is interested to take the course. Sign up Here!

At the end of the class, I needed to write a paper in order to receive a grade…Here’s what I wrote:

The Valley of GOD’s Heart’s Delight

By Michelle Wilson, Perspectives in World Missions May 24, 2021

When I moved to Northern California in 2000, I did not know much about it. I knew that there were several “Bays” and happened to hear that I was living in the “South Bay” but did not know much more than that. At that point in time, I thought I was a Christian. Jesus was my friend, but I had not made Him my Savior or the Lord of my life. However, I ingested the Bible like it was my bread and I prayed to GOD a lot. It was not long before I understood GOD’s desire for Jesus to be more than my friend, I received Him as my LORD and Savior and was baptized in 2002. Even before I had given my life to Christ, I loved to pray and during my prayer time in early 2001 or so, GOD placed it on my heart to pray for the area I lived to become the “Valley of GOD’s Heart’s Delight”. 

I had a prayer burden for this on and off for about 5-6 years before I learned at a prayer leader’s conference that the Santa Clara Valley had once been called the “Valley of the Heart’s Delight” from the 1960’s to 2001. What was “The Valley of the Heart’s Delight”?

According to Wikipedia, “The Santa Clara Valley runs south-southeast from the southern end of San Francisco Bay in Northern California in the United States. The northern, urbanized end of the valley is part of a region locally known as the “South Bay” and also part of the electronics, research, and technology area known as Silicon Valley. Santa Clara Valley consists of most of Santa Clara County, including its county seat, San Jose, as well as a small portion of San Benito County. The valley, named after the Spanish Mission Santa Clara, was for a time known as the Valley of Heart’s Delight for its high concentration of orchards, flowering trees, and plants. Until the 1960s it was the largest fruit-producing and packing region in the world, with 39 canneries.”[i]

The valley with its scenic beauty, mild climate, and thousands of acres of blooming fruit trees was known as “The Valley of Heart’s Delight”.

“The fertile soil of Santa Clara Valley encouraged farmers to grow many different types of crops. Wheat and grain were the primary crops until the 1880s, when farmers began to diversify into other crops and orchards. Some vineyards were planted. Family farms were small but bountiful. Thousands of acres produced garden seeds for vegetables and flowers which were sent throughout the world. The arrival of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 gave growers a national market for their fruit and other crops. By the early 20th century, 100,000 acres of valley land were planted with fruits and nuts including cherries, pears, and peaches. Prunes and apricots became the area’s biggest crops and Santa Clara was known as the Prune Capital of the World. Some said there was no better place on earth to grow fruit than Santa Clara Valley.”[ii]

By the 1920s and 1930s, the agricultural and horticultural industries were doing well in the valley and included 18 canneries, 13 dried-fruit packing houses, and 12 fresh-fruit and vegetable shipping firms, and they were shipping internationally. 

The need for workers greatly exceeded the local population and in the nineteenth century, Chinese and Japanese immigrants met that need. Toward the end of the nineteenth century many Italians and other immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe came to the valley and worked in the orchards and canneries. During the 20th century there were Filipino immigrants and increasing numbers of immigrants from Mexico who during World War II became the dominant agricultural workforce. The town of San Jose was dominated by its business community, which was in part composed of Irish Catholics. 

Here’s a story from CW:  My great grandfather arrived in the Santa Clara Valley in 1877. He had a vineyard in Cupertino across from what is now De Anza College. They were Christians from Canada and were one of the founding families that started Cupertino Union Church.  A church was an integral part of each small community. Everyone knew one another and waved as cars and trucks passed by neighbors and friends. Nobody locked their house and they left keys in their cars.

My Dad had 80 acres in the foothills of Cupertino. I remember climbing the hills of our ranch in the spring and looking out across this beautiful valley that looked like a huge patchwork quilt of pink and white blossoms and green fields of diverse crops. It was one of the richest agricultural valleys on this planet….so was it the “Valley of Heart’s Delight”. God was generous with his creation.[iii]

This was the “Valley of the Heart’s Delight”, once primarily agricultural because of its highly fertile soil, Santa Clara Valley is now largely urbanized, although its far southern reaches south of Gilroy remain agrarian. The most northern urban areas are considered part of Silicon Valley. 

I tried to share the burden to pray for the now Silicon Valley to become the Valley of GOD’s Heart’s Delight, but I felt like it fell on deaf ears. For a while, my heart grew cold praying for this, but GOD would remind me again and again. In 2015, I made a Facebook page for it and tried to invite everyone I knew who lived here or had a heart for it. But few joined. Again, my heart grew cold, but GOD would bring me back to this. And now – why now?? 

In January 2021, I asked GOD what it would look like for Him to pursue me (note – do not pray this if you do not want to have your life changed!). Within a few days, Becky Durstenfeld was emailing me that she noticed that I was starting to post things on my LinkedIn page that were more evangelistic and wanted to know if I would be interested in taking Perspectives. I looked at the information she sent and decided I could not afford to take the class; although I also thought it was more work than I could handle, I only let her know that it was too expensive and maybe another time. Within a week, she again emailed me to say that she found a company that would sponsor me and wanted to know if I would join. At that point, I remembered my prayer asking GOD to pursue me and decided that this was Him. Becky later told me that they needed one more person to join so that the whole class could continue, so I met that need, but I was still asking GOD why I was the one to meet the need? and why did He want me to take the class now?

One night I was watching an online retreat and the question was asked, “Are you willing to pick up the mantle?” I asked GOD what the mantle was that I needed to pick up.  

Does me praying for the Santa Clara Valley to become the “Valley of GOD’s Heart’s Delight” constitute a ministry for the paper that is due? Well, I did the paper as if it does because I believe this is a mantle or mandate that GOD has given me to pick up. – (And by the way, I passed the class).

MANDATE: To live under mandate is to be entrusted with a task of lasting significance. Mandates are not commands. By direct commands we assign small errands or daily chores. A mandate, on the other hand, releases authority and responsibility to pursue endeavors of historic importance. GOD has entrusted to Christ, and with Him to the Church, a mandate to fulfill His purpose for all of history.”[iv] – LORD, help me to accomplish the work You have for me.

GOD has shown me that this is like a mantle (or mandate) that needs to be picked up again, but I see that I need to be an intercessor who is rooted, planted, and grounded in Him and in His Word – the best land, the best soil, the best water. I need to be an intercessor who is rooted, planted, and grounded in praying for GOD’s Kingdom to come, firm in my belief and not letting what anyone says or does – or what I see in the natural to cause me to give up. GOD is showing me that this is what it takes for a plant to bear fruit, it must be planted in good soil and remain there, becoming rooted in the ground so that nothing it endures will cause it to die.

I learned through Perspectives that I need to be teachable, willing to learn about the things and people GOD is setting on my heart. So, I sought out to learn about Santa Clara Valley’s past, its people and what it might look like if (and when) it would become the Valley of GOD’s Heart’s Delight. In doing so, I ordered some books, I sent a questionnaire out to Church leaders and others to find out their perspective, I looked up any websites given to me and I searched for some myself.  I will make learning about the Valley and its people an ongoing practice so that I can love the people as Jesus loves them.

Where do I start? “It all starts with a willing humble faithful disciple with faith the size of a mustard seed in a MIGHTY POWERFUL GOD!”[v]

The questionnaire I sent out, asked nine questions. I wanted to find out from their perspective what were the latest statistics of the percentage of active Christians in the Bay Area and where they got the numbers. I asked what they thought was the biggest unreached people group (not based on the Perspectives definition or Joshua Project). I asked what they imagine the Valley of GOD’s Heart’s Delight would look like fulfilled and how they are already seeing it fulfilled as well ask what it would take, from their perspective, for it to be fulfilled. I also asked if they would be willing to pray for this as well as asking them for connections to others who might be willing to answer the questions.

The reason I asked about the latest statistics of the percentage of active Christians in the Bay Area is because from about 2005-2010, I was hearing the statistics from different pastors, ministries, and events. During that timeframe, the number of active Christians went from about 10% of the population to about 3% of the population, however, I was never told where the information was obtained.  In asking the question, I received many answers varying from 50% down to 3%. I looked at A LOT of differed websites and none of them seemed to agree on the actual number. I even spoke to several “data geeks” and received different answers too!

I learned the reason why there is so many different numbers are because no two websites are looking at the same people. One might look at the people of the different “Bays”, another might be looking at the different counties, while yet another might be looking at the Santa Clara Valley.

I chose to ask what people thought was the biggest unreached people group without giving a definition because I did not want people to look it up on the internet. I wanted to see from their eyes, from their perspective. This was very eye opening, because it allowed me to see where their hearts were drawn to people. I learned that there are Lebanese people here. I learned that we have indigenous people in the Bay Area too. Many people said that youth (12-23) are the biggest unreached group because they are taught differently than other generations and much harder to reach because of how “plugged in” to electronics they have become. Several said that Tech workers are the biggest unreached people group because there are so many, and they come from so many countries. Some said Chinese, others Asians; some said Indian, Muslim, and/or Hindu.

The Ohlone are the predominant Indigenous group of the Bay Area, including the Chochenyo and the Karkin in East Bay, the Ramaytush in San Francisco, the Yokuts in South Bay and Central Valley, and the Muwekma tribe throughout the region. Other Indigenous groups include the Graton Rancheria community (Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo), Kashaya, Patwin, and Mishewal Wappo in the North Bay, and the Bay Miwok in the East Bay.[vi]

I could see the melting-pot fusion of nationalities, cultures, and ethnicities through their answers. It gave me pleasure to hear when people where learning something from about the history of the Santa Clara Valley, its immigrants and people groups and religions from me too! And GOD was enlarging my heart to have more love both for those who answered as well as those who were on their hearts too.

The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the most diverse regions in the United States. More than 30% of its population is foreign-born, and close to two-thirds of its residents under the age of 18 are the children of immigrants. Nearly 250,000 Muslims–one of the highest concentrations of Muslims in the country–live, study, volunteer, work and contribute to the economies and communities of the Bay Area.[vii]

When I asked the question of what people would imagine the Santa Clara Valley would look like if (and when) it became the Valley of GOD’s Heart’s Delight, I got GOD-bumps (AKA: “goose-bumps”) at many of the responses. I had an extremely limited view of what I thought could possibly happen here. But GOD delight’s in doing exceedingly, abundantly more than all we could imagine.

I am a visual person, so I created a WordArt on the words and phrases that warmed my heart, gave me joy, and increased my vision of what the Valley of God’s Heart could entail.

“It might look like global missions on a local level. In other words, there would be a multi-cultural and ethnic approach to reach the nations in the Bay Area. I can see where this global approach used locally might yield results that our predominant American cultural approach does not. Then as God dispersed these new followers of Jesus into new communities across America and abroad, they could take these new models of missionary minded churches to new places. This valley would become an example of how God can take an impossible situation and turn it for His glory, literally making a stronghold of darkness into the “Valley of GOD’s Heart’s Delight”.[viii]

How is GOD starting to fulfill His purpose in Santa Clara Valley?

In the sphere of where I can see in the natural, I have the honor of attending the “Little Church that Could” – Trinity Church of Sunnyvale is a small church, but we are mighty for the LORD. Approximately 80% of our members are active in serving in one area or more. We are blessed to rent our facility to two other churches and several non-profit Christian organizations for below market rate and serving in unity with them. We are a generous church who were able to bless other churches and non-profits organizations not just in the good times, but also through the pandemic. GOD has blessed us with a good-sized parking lot that we in turn bless others by storing equipment for a “Church in a Box”, hosting regular food pantries, sponsoring homeless with showers and “Dignity on Wheels” truck on a regular basis. GOD has also blessed us with a large “warehouse” sized building behind the church where we rent space to the city for a boxing program to get kids off the street, have afterschool tutoring, and other “community center” type outreach. We sponsor many missionaries. We are also active in our neighborhood, our members are active in their work environments, one of our Elders is a chaplain for the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety (SV-PDS), our building is used by SV-PDS for fire training and events. These are among some of the things I see happening for GOD’s Kingdom through Trinity Church and her members. We aren’t perfect but we have open hands and hearts for GOD to use us for His glory.

Beyond Trinity Church, I have been privileged to go to local Chinese, Iranian, and African Christian churches and have seen how GOD is bringing people of the same culture together in semi-Western church setting while still worshipping in their mother tongue and culture.

I have also seen a tiny glimpse of some of the things that some Christian non-profit organizations are doing in the Santa Clara Valley – these are some of the ways I am seeing GOD at work around me.

I did not think I could get any more excited about this project, but GOD had more for me. When I read and heard the responses from people of how they are seeing GOD move towards this becoming the Valley of His Heart’s Delight, I worshipped and praised Him for what He is already accomplishing.

“Six years ago, when I took the job of CEO at TBC, the pastors told me it was a dark place. But as I drove around and met people, pastors, and nonprofits I found that even though it might be dark, there are lights all over the place.”[ix]

Through “Work and Faith Movement”, Christian Tech workers are learning how to have Christian fellowship in the companies where they are working, bringing their whole self to work which allows for Christians to encourage Christians, a form of discipling and awakening. These people are prayer walking the halls of the buildings where they work, they are asking people how they can pray for them and praying for them on the spot. They are given opportunities on work campuses to have worship and praise time – during work hours as well as Bible Study during lunches. They have workplace worship nights where “passionate, Jesus-loving, young professionals from Google, FB, Apple, LinkedIn, Cisco and a smattering of other tech companies gather around a campfire worshipping, praying, and hearing testimonials of how GOD is at work in their Silicon Valley workplaces.”[x] They have love towards all their co-workers and making time to know each person on a deeper level than non-Christians would. They have had two annual “pray for Tech” 24-hour prayer times. Tech and marketplace ministry is growing.

“We see people from different walks of life coming into our church as our members create relationships with people in their workplaces.”[xi]

Church planting is being done among at least 14 cultures and languages. Churches and pastors are networking together beyond denominations to pray, serve and be discipled. Churches are giving financially to other churches that are in need and some churches are uniting resources with one another to help each other financially, physically, and spiritually. Churches uniting for worship videos to encourage and build up the “Big C Church” (The Church). Prayer houses are springing up with more churches coming on board to bring 24/7 prayer for the Santa Clara Valley.

Christians are working to build bridges in their communities through Christian non-profit organization such as City Team and Kids Club as well as with city and county organizations. There are church sponsored community centers and city outreach.

“We are active in our faith, have an open door for ministry, have had 50 decisions for Christ this year, plus 11-13 nations are represented on one street and all are being ministered to. We are going where the people are and they have the opportunity to take it in.”[xii]

And some people are coming from other countries to America, to the Bay Area specifically so that they can have freedom to seek GOD through church attendance, studying the Bible, fellowship and discipling and learning all they can because they are hungry to know Jesus and to follow Him.

Those are all wonderful things – but we have not even begun to see what GOD has planned for the Santa Clara Valley. So, I also asked the question, “What do you think it will take for the Valley of GOD’s Heart to be fulfilled here?

I really think it will take much prayer and a move of GOD! Many people answered prayer. I was surprised by the number of people who said Christians or Jesus Followers need to start looking more like Jesus through true discipleship, prayer, growth, and willingness to let Christ be LORD of their lives. Others said that people need to have their hearts broken for the lost, eyes opened to the harvest that exists around them, and a boldness to share the Gospel with people they encounter.

GOD has been teaching me that an intercessor must have vision to see beyond the natural, to see what could happen in the spiritual and then pray that into being. Some of my new vision has come from what I have learned through the Perspectives class. Much of this came from botanical imagery used in the book, which melds well with the Valley of the Heart’s Delight becoming the Valley of GOD’s Heart’s Delight.

The Church should be organic – it should be alive and vibrant as a living organism. The core being Jesus Christ being followed, loved, and obeyed. Christ alive, forming spiritual families and working with them to fulfill His mission, is the living reality of the organic Church. The Church is really an embodiment of the risen Jesus – the Body of Christ.

Typically, we think of the church as something we mobilize so that people come to Jesus. Instead, Jesus leads people in mission, who in turn, bring forth fruitful churches. We should focus on planting Jesus and let Jesus build His church and work through His church. We are to extend His reign on earth.

The gospel is to be planted as a seed that will sprout within and be nourished by the rain and nutrients in the cultural soil of the receiving peoples. What sprouts from true gospel seed, when planted in people of other cultures, may look quite different above ground from the way it looked by those who planted it, but beneath the ground at the worldview level, the roots are to be the same and the life comes from the same source, which is Christ Himself.

We must plant the seed of the gospel of the Kingdom and the fruit that will grow will be changed lives living out their faith together. The fruit of an apple tree is not an apple, but more apple trees. Within the fruit is found the seed of the next generation of apple trees. We all carry within us the seed of future generations of the church. Christ in us is the seed of the next generation. The difference this seed can leave in the soil of a people group is significant.

If the Gospel is a seed planted in new soil and allowed to bear fruit indigenous to each culture, we can nurture groves of such living expressions of Christ’s Kingdom, that is, Churches that will bear the same fruit as Christ’s character, but usually with stalks and branches of social customs which appear quite alien to the Western culture.

Like a grain of wheat, each new Church in a chain has the same potential to start the reproduction all over again. Jesus’ parables Matt 13, Mark 4 and John 15 compare growth and reproduction of His churches to plants. Like all living creatures GOD has created, the Church has her own seed in herself to reproduce after her own kind. Every time we eat, we eat the fruit of GOD’s tremendous reproduction power given to plants and animals. Reproduction is His style – we need to pray for it!!! 1 Corinthians 3:6 Paul plants, Apollos waters, GOD gives growth. We sow, water, weed, fertilize, but rely on the Church’s own God-given potential to reproduce. An obedient, Spirit-filled church must reproduce at home or abroad. It’s her very nature; she is the Body of the risen, life-giving Son of GOD.

How I am seeing The Valley of GOD’s Heart’s Delight through spiritual eyes:

Where the Valley of the Heart’s Delight was filled with trees and produce of all kinds that brought immigrant workers, I imagine that the seed of the gospel would be planted in each people group, from the indigenous people, those born here and those from parts of the US and abroad who are brought to the Valley for work, school or as refugees. That each people group would represent different trees and plants that would be planted in Jesus and in the Gospel so that they would bear fruit of repentance and a change of lives. I imagine further that GOD would continue to bring them in to be discipled, trained and to work His harvest fields by making disciples that will lead to changed neighborhoods and cities.

If the former valley was known for its fruit, I can only imagine that the valley GOD would delight in would be one where His fruit is being grown. I imagine that it’s not only the fruit of the Spirit as Galatians 5:22-23 says “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.…”, but also the fruit of being connected to the vine of Jesus as Lord and Savior – deep and intimate love for Him, obedience to Him, worship and praise to GOD alone, making disciples who make disciples. And His fruit – it will last!  I imagine that GOD would touch the hearts through these disciples to take His “fruit” throughout the US and internationally.

This, as those who responded said, would be global missions on a local level; GOD’s Word bearing fruit for a good and ripe harvest; repentant sinners, transformed lives and love for Jesus evident in the love for people; thriving Christ-followers flourishing in all domains of life and allowing the blessing of GOD to flow through them for His Kingdom purposes to be fulfilled; unity of GOD’s people through Christ’s Bride the Church; and multi-ethnic worship.

What needs to happen to bring these changes?

Jesus used questions often with His disciples, the Pharisees, and the teachers of the Law. His questions always got to the root of the issues in their hearts or beliefs. I believe that He would encourage us to ask questions that get to the root of the issues.

Can we say that the reality of the risen Jesus is alive and active in the Bay Area? – Not what people have done or what programs are doing, rather, where is the risen Jesus seen at work in our midst?

Jesus should be the most important thing about us and the most recognizable aspect that the world sees. Is the ministry done for Jesus or by Jesus?

Our mission is to develop Christ followers rather than church members. This is transformed lives that bring change to neighborhoods and nations. Have we planted a religious organization rather than planting the powerful presence of Christ?

How can we simplify the Gospel so that what matters most is Christ?

We can look at the life of Paul, he was determined to allow Christians to follow different Christian lifestyles. He opposed anyone who would try to preserve a single pattern as normative for all Christians. The Gospel should not result in or preserve alienation between cultural tradition. Instead, by affirming the liberty of different segments of society to retain elements of their lifestyle that are not contrary to the Gospel, these people are welcomed into the big “C” Church, flourishing under the Word of GOD which ultimately calls for the elimination of every kind of prejudice.

In Acts 15, the question was asked: Is it necessary for Gentiles to “go through” Judaism in order to enter the Kingdom of GOD? The disciples determined that this was not the case. If we were to ask the same question today, it would take a different form: Is it necessary for people with non-Christian identity to “go through” Christian identity and culture in order to become part of the Kingdom of GOD? 

I think in the Bay Area we might need to ask the question: Is it necessary for people from nations around the world to “go through” Westernized Christianity in order to become Followers of Christ? Do they have to become Westernized because they come to the Bay Area for work, school or as refugees? 

How we answer these questions will help us to recognize that many people may be entering the Kingdom of GOD by becoming wholly devoted, obedient believing followers of Jesus Christ in their own culture, socio-religious identity, and community relationships. Their obedience needs to be simple and direct. It needs to be culturally and linguistically relevant. It needs to be easily reproducible. It needs to be an act of worship and praise filled with dependence upon the Spirit’s power. They need to follow the teachings and life of Jesus the Messiah, to obey Him.

Masses of people from other nations as well as the younger generations find little or nothing in Christianity that meets their needs, simply because it is presented in practice and in foreign ways to which they cannot connect. Westernized Christianity brand of our faith has been practiced for years, but the quest for vital, dynamic, biblical, contextualize Christianity will require experimenting with new, culturally and biblically appropriate ways of understanding, presenting and practicing Christ-centered lives.

Ralph Winter says that the powerful strategic idea that more people will follow Christ if they can join their own kind of people is grounded in the firm Biblical truth of Christian Liberty. The diversity of churches does not imply forced segregation. Churches have become diverse because given freedom to choose, people consistently seek fellowship with others most like themselves.[xiii]

We must plant Jesus in each culture, each people group, and help His church emerge indigenously from the soil so that a self-sustaining, reproducing church movement will emerge that is not dependent on the Western culture. 

Why are so many people saying that Christian or Jesus Followers “need to start looking more like Jesus”?

Churches and Christ Followers don’t always bear the fruit they should, so it’s important to “cultivate” them by equipping them to see Christ’s life flourish within their society. These people and churches need to be challenged to live the life Jesus called us to live. He calls every one of His followers to join Him in a relationship of love, power, and purpose.

He is the GOD of love who invites each of us into intimate relationship with Him which leads us to love Him, follow Him, obey Him. He is the GOD of power who invites us to participate in His purpose and plans and enables us to respond to Him in trust so that we can do His will for our own good and for His greater glory. He is the GOD of purpose who refuses to allow us to live self-centered lives, but rather is determined to honor us with the dignity of being on mission with Him, fulfilling part of His historic purpose.

Praying for GOD’s will on earth as it is in Heaven

Part of Jesus’ ministry was his prayer life. We cannot imitate Him without prayer. We can also imitate Paul whose first work was sowing the ground with prayer.

Interestingly, I was flipping through the Perspectives study guide and started reading not just what I had underlined, but I started reading what I had written in the margins – I wrote prayers! I pray that those who read this will see that GOD is in all the details – His providence and His design.

LORD, teach us how and allow us to die to our selves so that Your Kingdom can live in us!

LORD, You are more focused on Your love relationship with us that us getting a certain job done. Allow us to experience You in a relationship with You of love, power, and purpose!  Help us to do and accomplish the work You have for us not out of obligation, but rather because we love You.

LORD, please help us to bring about signs of the Kingdom – that You will bring Your Kingdom into our lives and circumstances in ways that others take note of You and start looking for You.

In Lesson 5, I learned that the Church has had “Persistence in Big-Picture Vision”. I wrote in the margin “LORD, please come beside me, even in my foolishness and self-absorbed moments and show me/remind me of the “big picture” and help me to be obedient to Your assignment for me.” I pray that GOD will come beside each person who is in ministry in the Santa Clara Valley, even in our foolishness and self-absorbed moments and show us, remind us of the “big picture” and help each one of us to be obedient to His assignment He had given each of us.

Having “big-picture vision” reminded me of one time I was prayer walking a local indoor arena in San Jose. It was at that time called the “HP Pavilion”. It has the capacity to hold 17,562 people. During that prayer walk, GOD told me that it would be known has the House of Prayer Pavilion because regular prayer and worship nights would be held there and that there would be no fee to park because the owners of the parking lots would want as many people to come as possible. It is now called the “SAP Center”. I pray that the enemy will no longer be able to sap GOD’s movement in the Bay Area, and that GOD’s power over this place will be present in a way that His plans and purposes come to fruition and bear good fruit that will last.

In Lesson 4, Newbigin says that as we carry out the mission Jesus imparted, we will not “bring the Kingdom of GOD in perfect measure, but instead to bring about signs of the kingdom – ‘the reality of GOD’s reign.’ I wrote in the margin, “LORD please help us to bring about signs of the kingdom – that You will bring Your Kingdom into our lives and circumstances in a way that others take note of You and look for You” – adding that they would desire Him and to come into relationship with Him because of these “GOD sightings”. 

Also in Lesson 4, Robert Coleman “points out that Jesus selected a few people and developed them as leaders in a movement that would impact the entire earth.” I wrote in the margin, “LORD, please let my prayers impact the world and people around me.” It would be beyond my thoughts or imagination for GOD to allow my prayers to impact the entire earth! My prayer is that He would raise up and develop leaders in a movement in the Santa Clara Valley that will impact the entire world.

LORD, I pray that as we sow, water, weed, fertilize, and fence the crop that we will rely on You to spring reproduction potential and power so that an obedient, Spirit-filled church will be produced and reproduced because she, in her nature, is the Body of the risen, life-giving Son of GOD.

“Listen, O Santa Clara Valley! The LORD is our GOD, the LORD alone.” (rephrased from Deuteronomy 6:4)

I pray that Holy Spirit with bring about a movement in Santa Clara Valley that will cause more and more people to be in an intimate relationship with GOD where they are dedicated and have life-transforming obedience to everything that Jesus commands. I pray that each person will flourish in a way that we share the blessings that GOD has given us in order to advance His Kingdom for our sake and for His glory.

I pray that the spirit of control over the Bay Area churches will be broken and that GOD’s power and control will flow freely so that churches are no longer stifled but instead grow and reproduce. I pray that the enemy will no longer have control over part of families causing a rift or breaking in the family, but instead entire families will be in relationship with GOD and evangelizing together.

 Habakkuk 1:5 “Look to the nations, watch and be utterly amazed for I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe even if you were told.”

I pray that the Good News about the Kingdom of GOD will be preached to the “nations” in Santa Clara Valley, so that the people will hear in a tongue and way that they understand and come to Salvation and lives lived in loving obedience to Christ.

This image shows some of the diverse people groups of the San Francisco Bay Area; it is not showing only unreached groups.[xiv]  

This image shows some of the diverse people groups of the San Francisco Bay Area; it is not showing only unreached groups.[i]  


[i] https://www.ywamsanfrancisco.org/unreached-people-groups

GOD, I pray for Santa Clara Valley that we will look at these nations within our midst, watch and be utterly amazed because You will do something in our days, in our lifetimes, that we would not believe even if we were told!

In “The Grinch that Stole Christmas”, the Grinch’s heart grew three times the size it had been. Not that I am the Grinch, but I feel that in a way, GOD has grown my heart at least three times the size it was – if not more – for Santa Clara Valley and its people. 

And I am praying that GOD will cause the hearts of others to grow with the same love and passion, again, not that anyone is a Grinch, but rather for GOD to enlarge our hearts and our capacity to love and pray to see the hand of GOD bring about something we can only partially imagine on this side of its fulfillment.

REFERENCES:


[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Clara_Valley

[ii] https://www.santaclaraca.gov/our-city/about-santa-clara/city-history/agriculture#:~:text=By%20the%20early%2020th%20century,Prune%20Capital%20of%20the%20World

[iii] CW, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church Member

[iv] Perspective Study Guide page 37

[v] JC, Trinity Church of Sunnyvale member

[vi] https://bayareaequityatlas.org/about/indigenous-populations-in-the-bay-area#:~:text=The%20Ohlone%20are%20the%20predominant,Muwekma%20tribe%20throughout%20the%20region.

[viii] Dr. Joel King, Lead Pastor, Trinity Church of Sunnyvale

[ix] Nancy Ortberg, CEO, Transforming the Bay for Christ

[x] Roy Tinklenberg, Founder, CEO and City Catalyst, Work and Faith Movement

[xi] Joseph Kim, Pastor, Revive Presbyterian Church

[xii] Malia Pires, Executive Director and Board Member, Reach Potential Movement

[xiii] Perspectives Reader, pages 356-360

[xiv] https://www.ywamsanfrancisco.org/unreached-people-groups

Christmas Christmas time is here…

Are you having a hard time getting into the Christmas Spirit this year?

SIGH, I’m not sure what to write or how to write it. I had a lot of hope and anticipation at the beginning of December. Then I suddenly found myself struggling with depression, yet again!

I really thought I would get past it this year and finally experience the hope and anticipation throughout the month. If you are like me, you need something, anything to anchor onto so that you can make it through the holidays.

I know we are to focus on Jesus, the reason for the season…and Christmas should be in our hearts and lives all year long. I can spend all morning reading devotionals and GOD’s Word. And worship and sing songs of praise to Him all while still struggling with depression.

I’m finding that looking back at past Christmases while asking GOD to shine a light on my memories to show me how He was in them is bringing some relief.

I was at my church’s Christmas Carol sing last week and people were asked to share memories. There seemed to be a theme this year where person after person shared about their family opening Christmas presents for hours for Christmas. My family didn’t do that.

Interestingly, GOD brought to mind not a time with lots of presents, but a Christmas when I was younger after my parents divorced and my Dad had remarried. We were at my Dad’s sister’s house. It was evening and the adults had the kids join them. The adults started to sing (and recorded it on a cassette tape).

GOD shined His light in the gift of His presence. You see, my family were not just singing the melody of the Christmas songs, but were harmonizing with one another. It was like a taste of what it will be like when we get to heaven.

GOD is reminding me of other Christmas memories too. Is it causing the depression to go away? No. BUT GOD is allowing me to have peace, hope, anticipation and even some joy despite the depression. He is able to do that when we let Him.

GOD has an adventure for each of us. He never promised life would be easy. Jesus said that in this world we will have trouble, but He has overcome the world. It’s our choice to take Him up on the adventure He has for us or try to do life on our own without Him.

Having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit? Ask GOD to shine a light on what His is doing as well as where He was in past seasons of your life. He will show Himself faithful. He will show you where He has been working in your life, even in the hardest parts of your life.

And one more thing, please know, it’s ok to be depressed. It’s ok to not be ok. But know this, you are not alone. GOD is with you and loves you. BUT if you are thinking about taking your life, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). GOD will help you get through this season. Trust Him.

I pray that GOD will show Himself faithful in your life. I pray that He will encourage you, strengthen you and give you hope and anticipation of what is to come. I pray that GOD will envelope you in His arms and lead you on the adventure of a lifetime. He is able and willing. I love you friend. Merry Christmas!

On With the New….

Wow, it’s been a month since I have written a blog!  I have much happen, so I am surprised I have not written! Oh well…

I was going to Nova Job Center throughout the spring and summer of 2016 but for some reason my badge was no longer valid which meant that I had to reapply for their services. I believe that it was a “God-thing”, because when I re-applied, I was able to qualify for job training. When I applied the first time, I would not have qualified because I was receiving short-term disability, but they also did not have any funding available when I first applied.

I went through the orientation training and then I went to a class that talked about the process to receive a training grant. After that, I met with a job councilor who told me that I could probably get a three or six month training program. So, I did all my homework. I looked back at all the work I have done through my years of work to see if there was something I really enjoyed doing. I decided that I enjoyed bookkeeping using Quickbooks and Quicken. I researched positions with different titles, position requirements, salaries, benefits, etc. I listed each and made graphs, I interviewed three ladies in my network or from people connected to my network who were either bookkeepers or non-tax accountants, I printed my master job and schooling resume and more.

Then I took all of that to a training councilor who first wanted to know why I was not working. I told her that I had quit my job and two days later donated 60% of my liver to my friend’s husband. She clapped her hands and smiled as she told me that she wondered why I was in the system with priority status to receive training funds. I was told I had priority status, but I was under the impression that it was because I was reapplying for their services.

After going through all of my “homework”, she told me that it is rare for someone to come in with everything completed. Majority of the people have to go back to her several times before she can make a decision about job training. She marked “APPROVED” on my paperwork and then proceeded to ask me if I wanted a nine-month training or a twelve-month training. I was dumbfounded for a moment before she explained that she was not approving me for a three or six month bookkeeping training but instead she was approving me for a nine or twelve month accounting certificate!

She explained both of the options to me and I made the decision that I would like to go to De Anza College in Cupertino for a twelve month accounting certificate.  I was told that I would have quite a bit of stuff in order to be able to start in January but the plan was that I would sign my grant contract on January 3rd and start school on January 9th.

On the 20th of December, I got a call that my contract was ready to sign and that I needed to go to Nova to sign it before the Christmas break. I went in that day to sign. While I was there, my councilor suggested that I contact my doctor and ask for a temporary handicap placard for the car since the campus was big.

The next day on December 21, I went to De Anza to do all my paperwork. While I was there, my training councilor encouraged me to have my doctor approve for me to get a handicap placard. So I did all my paperwork as well as contacting my doctor to find out what he thought. Since he agreed, I sent paperwork to him to be signed and sent back to me to take to Department of Motor Vehicles.

Well, all seemed to be going well. Then, on Christmas day, the car (Number 10) that I was borrowing from friends was stolen. It was recovered last night but had drugs and other things in it that have caused the owners concern for my safety, so they will no longer be loaning the car to me.

The other thing that is happening is that the classes that I hoped to get are not available now and I have not received the email from De Anza to register. So, it seems like there is something keeping me from moving forward!

It’s interesting, my friend Amy sent me a text that said, “Wow, you are such a person of faith and yet the LORD tests you down to the wire. His glory always prevails, but it’s so much at once!”

It is easy to think that if we take a step of faith that things should be easy. But that is not the case. Think of Abraham, the father of the faith. God gave him a promise that he would have a son. He was already 75 years old when God made that promise to him. Then he would have to wait 25 years before Isaac was born. AND then God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice the son of his promise. But Abraham got up and took Isaac to the place that God told him to go, he tied Isaac to the altar and had the knife in his hand raised to sacrifice his son of promise…AND then only did the angel of God speak and the ram was provided in Isaac’s place. (You can read the story of Abraham in Genesis, Chapter 22 for the story of him being asked to sacrifice his son.)

I am not being asked to sacrifice anything. I already sacrificed 60% of my liver and a year worth of wages! But walking in faith isn’t always easy. The one thing that makes walking in faith a little easier is that God doesn’t change. He is the one who told me back in June of 2015, “I love you, I have a plan, and I am in control!” He hasn’t changed. He still loves me, He still have a plan for me (Jeremiah 29:11), and He is still in control! Nothing has changed.

So, I want to encourage you. If you are in a place where circumstances are hard, where nothing seems to be going right and even then good things seem to be made hard, don’t be discouraged. Trust God that He is more powerful than the enemy. Trust God that He loves you. Trust God that He has a great plan for you. Trust God that He is and will always be on His throne. Keep your eyes on Him because He will make a way where there seems to be no way! (Read Isaiah 43:1-3).

This is the end….

 

Ok, so you are probably wondering why I put a funny cheese commercial at the beginning of this blog post.  Well, it’s kind of long story. So, my short-term disability ran out on October 21, 2016. I thought I was going to be getting a fantastic job, but not quite sure if I was ready to be working full-time with lots of travel. Turns out, they did not feel I had enough experience in an area and not enough knowledge in another area. So I didn’t get the job.

I should note that prior to my short-term disability running out, I applied for Social Security Disability, which takes about 3 months to be approved or denied.

Back to not getting the job. I’m not sure who I spoke to, but was told to file for unemployment because I did not get the job but no longer on short-term disability. I was accepted for unemployment benefits right away, but I had to go through a screening call to make sure I qualify. Well, I got the call, which was not an easy one! The woman wanted to know if I was disabled or employable. I tried to explain that I am employable with limitations. She would not accept my answer. “You are either disabled or employable, Ms Wilson, you can’t be both!” She wanted a note from my doctor saying I was employable without limitations. I felt I was between a rock and a hard place. I won’t tell you that I didn’t cry. I did!

Almost immediately, the Message version of Isaiah 43:1-4 came to my mind.

When You’re Between a Rock and a Hard Place

43 1-4 But now, God’s Message,
    the God who made you in the first place, Jacob,
    the One who got you started, Israel:
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
    I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
    When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
    it won’t be a dead-end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
    The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you:
    all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!
That’s how much you mean to me!
    That’s how much I love you!
I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
    trade the creation just for you.

Also, a song started in my heart:

When you’re up against a struggle that shatters all your dreams
And your hopes have been cruelly crushed by Satan’s manifested schemes
And you feel the urge within you to submit to earthly fears
Don’t let the faith you’re standing in, seem to disappear

Praise the Lord, He can work through those who praise Him
Praise the Lord, for our God inhabits praise
Praise the Lord, for the chains that seems to bind you
Serve only to remind you that they drop powerless behind you
When you praise Him

I felt comforted by God. I know He loves me, He has a plan and He is in control. Later in the day I ended up at a Job Center for a class. Ironically my badge had expired even though I was doing things to keep it active, so I had to meet with a counselor for a new badge. I met with a lady who is a Sister-in-Christ and she told me that she could not tell me what to do but to trust God to show me what was the best thing to do. She explained that with me being “employable with limitations” that I would qualify for job training (which I was not eligible of getting before because I didn’t qualify and because they didn’t have funding) and possibly help from Department of Rehabilitation (which I also had applied for).

I had pretty much decided that I would not worry about losing unemployment thinking I might get Social Security Disability. However, I called UCSF to talk to them about what they thought I should do. No one contacted me back in time to do anything about unemployment, so when the letter of denial for unemployment came, I was not surprised at all.

This morning, I was looking at my bookshelf and opened a devotional book I have not read yet. There was a challenge on the page I turned to, so I read it since I like challenges. It read:

“Challenge: Today make the LORD your dwelling place. Let Him be the one that delivers you from your enemies. As you talk and pray to God, ask Him to show you the best way to handle a current crisis. Like He did with David, He will deliver you. May God bless you.”

I decided to verbally acknowledge the LORD as my dwelling place to at least take part of the challenge. I started to pray, “God, I don’t have a current crisis that I know of….” Immediately I thought “you won’t receive Social Security Disability.” I knew that it was the LORD and not the enemy. And as crazy as it may seem, I heard the mailman drop the mail in the box right then. Sure enough to His word, I received a letter from Social Security that I do not qualify for Social Security Disability because according to my doctor at UCSF I am “employable with limitations”.

I could not believe it! Well I could, but I couldn’t. The same thing that disqualified me from receiving unemployment was also disqualifying me from receiving Social Security Disability! Wow! That is just unbelievable!

No Bible verses came to mind. No songs of hope sprang up in my heart. Just the enemy telling me that I thought I was at the end before but now I was at the end. “There’s no hope for Michelle…she will not be able to get the training she thought she would be able to get since she won’t have any form of income from State or Government!”

Then a song arose but not one from God. “This is the end, beautiful friend, This is the end, my only friend, the end. Of our elaborate plans, the end.”

I was sure that I have seen a video of a mouse in a trap with this same music playing. You think, “poor mouse!” It truly looks like the end for the poor critter. And that is what it feels like for me right now. But the mouse ate strong cheese and as a result was able to “bench press” the bar that had snapped to take life from its body to the tune of Eye of the Tiger! Hee hee! My God is much stronger than the strongest cheese! He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.  He is my dwelling place and He will deliver me from my enemies.

I love when I can laugh at Satan. He may think that I am at the end, “But my God shall supply all my need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19). I laugh at Satan, not because I know God’s plan or how provision will come in, but because I know God is faithful!

Tonight when I talked to my housemate about my day, she told me, “I want you to know, you will not be kicked out of my house if you can not come up with rent! Just know that, ok?” I am already praising God for the blessing of the beautiful home I am living in as well as the generosity my housemate has already shown me. Now I praise God all the more for an assurance of housing in a time of uncertainty with my finances. God is already showing Himself faithful!  Praise God not only is He my dwelling place, but He has provided a dwelling place!