When I sat down to write something for this month’s Patria Newsletter, I was initially inclined to share about the wonderful things God did while Elisa and I were in Hong Kong. While I fully intend to share some of that, I immediately felt the Lord prompt me to take this opportunity to give many of you a better perspective on what Elisa and I do and how it relates to Patria. We spend a great deal of time trying to insure that those who wish to connect with Patria understand what it means to be a part of a real ministry family, but don’t often get the chance to explain how Elisa and I interact with that family. Our deepest and most heartfelt desire is to see you all develop relationships that assist you in moving into all God has created you for and in seeing you fulfill your destiny, but just what is our role in that process. Patria is not governmental in its nature and therefore we are not busy establishing policy or insuring that everyone who is a part of this “network” stays in line with what is “expected” of them. Instead, we pray and work to insure that each of you are able to do what God has given you to do, the way God has given you to do it, so that the Kingdom of God is advanced. As the founder and a leader of Patria, I want to see this family grow and to develop services and support that helps each of you accomplish your destiny. Elisa and I spend time praying for you and praying for wisdom in how we can undergird you. Over the next several months we will begin hosting regular prayer/fellowship video chats in an effort to utilize technology to have more time with you all. By the time this email is distributed, we should have already completed most of our “test” chats and will be well on our way to launching this on a consistent basis. We are also working on a project to obtain chord charts and lyrics for worship songs written by members of the Patria family and will begin to make these resources available to the Patria family on a regular basis. I have asked Shawn Lombard to help spearhead this effort and we have already discussed the idea with many of our family song writers. It is our prayer that this project will be off the ground and running by this fall. A great deal of our time is spent traveling to spend time with you – our family. Elisa and I feel the Lord’s hand on our traveling together and though she completed her Nursing training and is now an RN, she has delayed employment in her field in an effort to find something that will allow her to continue traveling with me as we spend time with you. Our typical visit with Patria family members will vary based upon what type of “ministry” work they are doing, but it always emphasizes building and strengthening the personal relationships we have with you as leaders – resulting in a focus on ensuring time is taken specifically for fellowship with you and providing a listening ear and understanding heart to you as leaders. We take joy in the opportunities we have to train those who are a part of your ministries, often teaching in the areas of prophetic ministry, dream interpretation, prophetic/dream outreach and evangelism, prayer, deliverance/spiritual warfare, and much more. Frequently, we also have the opportunity to take time with entire leadership teams, get to know what God is doing in and through your local family and minister to and encourage them. More and more frequently, our visits also include an opportunity to share the Patria vision with others around the country who are not currently a part of our “Family”, but who need the type of relationships and support that Patria provides. Occasionally, and thankfully infrequently, our role is also to help provide dispute resolution within our ministries and our ministry families or to be a support during a time of crisis or difficulty. There are two ways that our travel to spend time with the family is initiated. First, we are always available at the request of any leader to come for whatever reason they may have. Second, we are regularly in prayer for any assignments that the Lord sets in place for us to go just because He said to. While your support in covering expenses and providing honorariums when we come is always appreciated, it is our heartfelt desire that we will never base where we go or the ministry we provide on such support. Something happened while Elisa and I were pastoring The Bridge Birmingham that has greatly impacted my view of how Patria should operate now. We had been laboring for about 7 years and were still known as Cahaba Christian Fellowship when we faced one of the most monumental challenges in our ministry to that point. We were contemplating either calling it quits or making major changes to the way we operated, when I decided to call John Paul Jackson and seek some wisdom. I will never forget his response when he said, “I will be there next weekend.” Never in my wildest dreams had I expected him to come and walk through our challenge with us. I remember telling him we couldn’t afford to buy him a plane ticket or give him an honorarium and his reply touched my heart and set the tone for who I am today when he said, “I didn’t ask you to, I said I would be there to help you and I will be.” A seed was planted in my heart that day and I affirm to you now that to the best of our ability, this will always be our response to your need as well. We are trusting God for the Patria budget to reach a place that we are able to go whenever we are needed and it is never “necessary” to ask for support to get there. Another aspect of our work involves our travel to pour into ministries and individuals where we see God moving and who share a common strand of spiritual DNA, whether or not they are already a part of Patria. Sometimes this results in welcoming them as new members of the Patria family and other times it simply results in the knowledge that we (Patria) as a family have helped advance the Kingdom. Our recent trip to Hong Kong provides a beautiful example of how this can work. When Rose Wenesco and I first discussed the idea of our traveling to Hong Kong, I had no idea how God would order it or what it would look like. After some time, the door opened to do an Understanding Dreams and Visions class with Streams Hong Kong and Elisa and I simply said yes. I told Rose that it was our desire to pour out and pour into any of the ministries in Hong Kong that had need. Shortly after, Rose added an Art of Hearing God class the weekend before the UDAV class. Now we had a second reason to travel thousands of miles and spend two weeks in Asia. We left Birmingham, Alabama knowing only that we would teach those two classes and honestly not evening knowing for sure where we would stay or what we would eat. We arrived in Hong Kong to find a hotel had been arranged for us for our entire stay and virtually every day, morning and evening, had been filled with opportunities to minister. We ended up doing the AOHG and UDAV classes, 2 dream labs, 5 small group/house church meetings, 3 church services (1 was a special service for refugees and asylum seekers that allowed us to minister to people from a dozen or more nations), multiple one on one ministry opportunities and several meetings with local church leaders. In the end lifelong relationships were built and Rose and her husband became a part of the Patria family.
I want to share just a few of the stories of how God moved in Hong Kong to let you know how amazing He is. First, we felt called to visit one of the local temples to see what the spiritual atmosphere was like and how it was impacting the people. While I wouldn’t recommend such a visit for just anyone, Elisa and I know who we are in Christ and have full confidence that the light in us dispels the darkness wherever we go. We spoke to Rose to be sure that such a visit would not be misunderstood nor harmful to the local body of believers and she arranged for someone to take us. In the midst of our “tour” and right in the center of the temple grounds God began to speak to us concerning the young lady who had agreed to go with us and she ended up being deeply touched. One of the things that impacted her the most was when she realized that in the midst of such darkness, God’s voice could still be heard and so in the midst of her crisis she now had hope that she could still hear His voice. Another specific testimony that stands out from our trip was the evening we were supposed to speak to a home group from a more traditional churh on “spiritual fathering”. For some reason (I am confident it was God’s reason) I got confused and ended up speaking on dreams. I couldn’t figure out why I felt a resistance at first and from my perspective one man, who seemed to be basically the leader of the group, seemed to erect a wall as I shared. In the end I asked if anyone had a question or a dream they wanted to understand and one of the lady’s immediately shared an experience she had many years ago and I interpreted the dream and encouraged her concerning what God was saying to her. Instantly the resistance shattered and the room came alive. By the end of the night, the gentleman who had seemed so hard asked if we would pray for each member of the group individually and allowed us to minister to them prophetically. He closed the night with a statement that would have made the entire trip worthwhile if God had done nothing else – “I have been dreaming for 40 years and never realized that God might be speaking. I am going to have to pay more attention to what God is saying to me.” Hong Kong is a place where the culture clamors for dream interpretation and fortune telling and God is about to move to replace the false with something real that will turn their world upside down. I believe the doors to Asia are already swinging open and we – the Patria Family - need to be positioned properly both in prayer and service to be a part of what God has already set in motion. I have already written a longer article than I had intended and I feel that I have only scratched the surface of what we do at and through Patria. Our foremost goal is to insure that you have the relationships you need to support what God is doing in your lives. While we know that we can only provide a limited amount of support through the things we do, we believe that as each of you begin to invest in the lives of other Patria family members, the scriptural “one another’s” will bring forth fruit that is life changing and ministry enhancing. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” Hebrews 10:24. While we do not often directly ask for financial support, nor require that family members give to support the work of Patria, the need for regular and consistent financial support does exist. As good stewards of what God has given us, we want to be accountable for what is done with the support that is being given and to make you aware of the impact that your giving is having. We also want those who may not have considered giving on a regular/monthly basis to understand why there is a financial need and why we believe sowing into this work is sowing into good ground. I realize that I have labored for the last 3-4 years under a wound inflicted from past experience with “networks” and “associations” that placed such an emphasis on finances that they lost sight of relationships. We never want to make that mistake, however, it does take finances to allow Elisa and I to continue the work that God has laid before us. As I am sure the Board of Directors would affirm, Elisa and I have labored to birth this family without desire or expectation of financial reward. In order for us to continue to meet the needs of our Patria family and future family your consistent financial support, providing both income for us and the budget to fulfill Patria’s purpose, is a necessity. For those whom the Lord has already directed to give regularly, we say thank you from the bottom of our hearts. To those whom He has not, please do not feel an obligation of any kind, but we do ask that you search your hearts and listen for His voice as He may direct you to co-labor with us through consistent and ongoing financial support.