Looking for the Stepping Stones of God
Apart from the Bible, my greatest reading love is studying the detailed lives of the saints of God – especially those who have pioneered in obedience to Him. My personal reading these past few weeks has been the Autobiography of George Mueller – the full version of which details (in 730 pages of small print!) his day by day experiences of following and trusting God in nineteenth century England.
Towards the end of his long ministry career, when he was caring for 2221 orphans daily, had 189 staff to support and had a major literature mission to fund, he still faced days when there was nothing in the bank and he wrote “Am I, in the evening of my life, having to face the same tests as we had at the beginning of the work?” It was a rhetorical, though heartfelt, question to God. For, in reality, he knew that the faith needed to feed and provide for so many orphans was no different from the faith that had been needed to trust God for his provision in the early days of his ministry, when there were no orphans depending on his mission for daily bread!
At another time, when he was totally convinced by God, in the privacy of his own prayers, that he needed to open another orphan house, a vision that was as yet still unknown to his wife, he was saying “I distrust myself, and cling to God, to be kept from mistakes and delusions” even though “I have not the least misgiving in my own mind.” George Mueller walked a path of certainty surrounded by the question-marks thrown up by not knowing the how or having the wherewithal for another big project. The enemy loves to surround us with a sea of doubts on which the water-tightness of our ship of faith has to be constantly tested!
What burned in George Mueller’s heart was the thought of countless orphans in a welfare-less Victorian Society, who would die without any food in their bellies or knowledge of Christ in their hearts. One of the people who impacted me so greatly as a child was Florrie Slade – she was about seventy-five at the time (1953) and had given her life to Jesus, aged 5 (1878) in George Mueller’s orphanage in Bristol – maybe even the very orphanage about which George Mueller was wrestling in his heart on the 25th January 1851. Florrie had no idea who she was as a human being – but she knew who she was in Christ and radiated the love of Jesus from her face. It was the faces of orphans such as Florrie that kept George Mueller’s knees on the floor and his heart in vision.
Passion for God’s Vision
George Mueller was a great and amazing man and I do not pretend by any stretch of the imagination to equate myself or the ministry with his extraordinary faith and trust in God. But some of his experiences are so close to home just now that I am being seriously challenged and encouraged, at the same time, by the depth of his pragmatic spirituality. I understand his passion.
It was a passion for the hurting and broken that drove me on in God during my twenties and thirties. It burned within me. It was a fire that wouldn’t go out of its own accord and I couldn’t put out. Then when, in my forties, I first walked into Ellel Grange the vision burst into flames. The vision seemed crazy, impossible and beyond reality, but God brought a ministry into being that he had prepared in advance (providence). Just as we need schools and hospitals for training and medical care, God needed buildings to which His children could come for teaching and healing. We didn’t get everything right and I’m sure that there are things we could have done so much better. But I take comfort in the fact, nevertheless, that what God showed in vision is now happening in so many different places in the world.
But just as George Mueller also discovered, we don’t take ground from the kingdom of darkness without it being contended for by the prince of darkness. Over the years there are many occasions when we have experienced something of that contention. And my guess is that there is much more of that contention, that the Lord has dealt with for us in the heavenlies, than we have been aware of at the time, and which we will only find out about when the ‘books are opened’ in the glory of eternity.
The Baak House Adventure with God
Even though George Mueller knew in his heart that he was to build a second orphan house, he wrestled with God over this massive extension of the work, not wanting to go into any form of deception or delusion. I went through a similar experience in respect of the Baak House, the Centre in the Netherlands which was our first physical Centre on mainland Western Europe. ‘Could it first be established?’ and ‘could it ever be sustained?’ were huge questions.
It was a lonely road of faith that Peter Freeke, the founding Director of the work at the Baak, and I walked on together as we trusted God to find the place and make it possible to acquire the property. There were many amazing signs along the way – the steps of faith were like stepping stones across a deep river, with the stones lying just below the surface of the water – invisible from a distance, but clearly seen from one stepping stone to the next. As we put our feet down on one stone, the next stepping-stone became visible.
God gave me a big heart for the Baak House and for its potential in God. I don’t see it just as it is now – but I see it as an absolutely critical bridgehead for the Kingdom of God in an increasingly secular and humanistic society. I see it as a place that will be ready for the day that will come, when people are crying out, “Where can we find out the truth?” A day when people in need of the Saviour and His healing will make their way to the place and be found knocking on its doors looking for ‘bread – the very bread of life’. As I am writing these words, I am coming under a heavy anointing of the Spirit as the Lord is deeply impacting me with the amazing spiritual similarity between today’s world and the world of George Mueller in 1851.
An Orphaned Generation
Mueller saw an orphaned generation of fatherless and motherless children, cast off from a society that did not want them or from which their parents had been cut off by the ravages of disease, with no-one left to care for them. It was during a cholera epidemic in Bristol that God was beginning to form in Mueller’s heart the orphanage vision that would eventually hallmark his life.
I see today a generation of children growing up effectively as orphans, In the UK there are two million one-parent families, in the vast majority of which there is no father. A recent report said it as it is, “Children who grow up in one-parent homes are more likely to suffer poor health, do badly at school and fall into crime or drug abuse when they are teenagers.” And the fact is, today’s young people, across the whole of Europe, are far more deprived spiritually than were the generations growing up in George Mueller’s day. A knowledge of God and an awareness of the fear of God has disappeared from society and we face a desperate future.
But whenever the enemy plans his strategies, God prepares the ground for a rescue package to always be available. George Mueller’s orphanages were just one of those rescue packages that were first prepared in the heart of man to be ready for a time that was yet to come. I would dearly love to spend the time doing a sociological study of the subsequent generations of those who found Christ in one of those orphanages – I have a strong suspicion that I would uncover some remarkable stories of the providence of God.
Today’s healing Ministry
I am deeply convicted that God initiated the vision for today’s healing ministry through a world-wide move of His Spirit in the sixties and seventies, in anticipation of a day when people would one day be desperate in their search for an answer. I have no doubt that when God raised up Ellel Ministries it was part of His answer to the now and forthcoming cries of His children. The centres around the world are already bearing witness to what God planned in advance by what He is now doing.
But in the midst of so much spiritual vision and blessing, there is a contention that is raging in the heavenlies. And within Ellel Ministries it is currently focussed on the Baak House and is threatening to overwhelm us. In the present European and Euro economic crisis our bankers, Deutsch Bank, will not renew our mortgage on the property and without replacement funding we are in danger of losing this vital base for the work in Europe. But in the midst of this crisis, God has provided us with the possibility of an amazing solution in which Deutsch Bank is willing to forgive us at least a million Euros!
In recent years God has been convicting the Executive Leadership of the ministry that this is a season in which He wants us to reduce, even eliminate, all our bank debt. It is vital that we become independent of the massive uncertainties represented by the banking institutions. And at the Baak Centre, we have an incredible opportunity to reduce our indebtedness by at least a million Euros, provided we can find a way of funding the residual two million Euros. It feels as though God is showing us a way in which our prayers can be answered, but at the same time taking us through a severe test when the very survival of the Baak centre within Ellel Ministries is under the most severe of challenges. Satan is fiercely contending for that precious place.
God’s Stepping Stones
I do not know where the answer is going to come from – but what I do know is this – God deeply cares about the orphaned generation that is growing up in Europe without either a knowledge of Him or without any understanding that the Saviour is also their healer and deliverer. I am sensing deeply the burden of God’s heart for the Baak House. My spirit is crying out to Him that through His people he will show us where the stepping stones are beneath the surface of the enemy’s flood tide.
Back in November 2011, those who attended the Advancing the Kingdom course at Ellel Grange, provided an amazing stepping stone when they gave 99,000 Euros for the work at the Baak. The meeting we had with Deutsch Bank was another amazing stepping stone. And I’m now looking in faith and anticipation for the next one as we approach the deadlines that have now been put in place by the Deutsch Bank for coming forward with a realistic proposal to overcome this huge financial hurdle. David Cross and I met with them on the 5th July and they are looking to us for a firm proposal to resolve the situation by the 5th August, so time is of the essence.
George Mueller’s autobiography is littered with stories of coming to God in prayer in their lack and then before long you read the record of how God met their need – often in ways which were totally different from anything they could have expected. We will rejoice at whatever way God chooses to help us – but one thing I know, as the old song tells us,
“My Lord knows the way through the wilderness, All I have to do is follow,
My Lord knows the way through the wilderness, All I have to do is follow.
Strength for today, is mine always
And all that I need for tomorrow.
My Lord knows the way through the wilderness, All I have to do is follow.
We would deeply value your prayers for the Baak House and its destiny. And if anyone reading this senses God is showing them where the next stepping stone is to be found or that they could be part of God’s solution, then we will be delighted to hear from them.