Our Aurora

Jeremiah 29:11 ‘For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you the future you hope for’. (paraphrase)

All her life Merle has wanted to see the Aurora. For this year’s 26th Wedding Anniversary we arranged a short weekend in Iceland, hoping on the Friday, Saturday or Sunday night we might see it in the sky.

To see an Aurora, several things have to go right. You need clear sky (no clouds), no moon, electo-magnetic activity and luck!

We got there super late on Friday and were too tired to stay up looking. The sky was clear. but there was little electro-magnetic activity.

On Saturday night, prospects were low. I had just looked at the websites that predict Aurora activity in Iceland. They had all said the probability, already low, was dropping. Probability was going to go up again only once we had left Reykjavik to fly home. I left the resteraunt in Selfoss a little sad that all the experts were saying we wouldn’t see it. We were planning to drive to a remote place, where there were no city lights and stay up all night watching the sky from the hire car – just in case. As we walked back in the crunching snow to the log cabin I prayed. “Lord, can you show us the Aurora please?”.

I knew he could, but I wondered if he would.

I turned to look at the sky – filled with the lights of the City and street lights above me.

Suddenly, even instantly the Aurora was clearly visible. The ‘green curtain’ as it is known.

“Look Merle, isn’t that the Aurora?”, I said.

“Yes,” she said and tears filled her eyes.

“That’s actually the Aurora !”, I said, “I’d just prayed and now its there!”, I said,  and started bouncing up and down in the snow.

We raced to the car and drove to a better spot, out of the built up area. We sat for an hour watching as it grew and faded. We took pictures on the phone – they are not the best pictures BTW. On the way back to the cabin Merle said, “This was our Aurora – the one I had always hoped for”.

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Happy and Humbled by the book launch

How to Hear God - revisited and revised

I am very excited .. and happy …. and humbled.

If you know me personally I have had many independent prophetic words about being a writer. Some of you will know this is true since I published a little independent book in 2011, but I felt from the Lord it was the season to really devote myself again to this instruction.

It’s been several years since the original edition of How to hear God, my first book first left the pages of my computer and started to be sold on Amazon.

At first I was just happy that I had managed to get a book out there. I was delighted I would be able to say I had written a book. I wasn’t that worried if it sold. That was not the point. The point was I had managed to do it and I had obeyed what I felt the Lord said to me.

I had no understanding of marketing or launching the book at all.

In the first week my pastor bought a copy.

By week three I had sold three copies and I wondered who the other purchasers were? I was really amazed when it started selling at all.

Finally (suddenly? unexpectedly?) the book started to sell and I started to get emails from all over the world thanking me of the content. These emails inspired me and at times comforted me through some hard times, when I was being judged for my motives and criticised. I would like to thank everyone that wrote to me, from all corners of our Lord’s planet.

Now – as part of a series of books to be published in 2016 and 2017 my first book has been re-launched. Doing a ‘proper book launch’ was completely new to me but I decided I wanted to learn, and over the last few months I have learnt how to market and launch a book using the best internet resources and techniques used. I was truly a ‘newbie learning the basics’. As well as learning LOADS, the Lord  also assembled a great team to help me …

Without doubt, my coach and personal writing mentor, Mimi is simply awesome! I simply could not have done it without you. I also want to than Lyndsay and Colleen for thoughtful editing and review work and Joanna and Jenni for publicity and Facebook help.

So here I am today

  • No 1 seller in all the categories I wanted on Amazon…. I know …. its simply ridiculous!
  • learnt a whole bunch of new skills
  • made a whole bunch of new friends

I am so thankful to the Lord for his love and guidance and I am humbled by the thought that this is all in his plan for me.

Finally, thanks to all my friends and family and internet followers for getting hold of the book and tweeting it and passing it on etc…

In the words of Mimi – ’That’s Awesome!”

 

 

Ian lives and works in Sheffield, with his wife, Merle, his sons and a dog, and helps lead  ‘A Heart for Woodseats’, a new church plant near his home. He is a christian author and blogs at ianbanner.com. His most recent book can be found at 

USA : https://amzn.com/B005OTK8BS
UK : http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B005OTK8BS

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My name is Ian. I have Asbergers, I don’t need healing or judging

Asbergers and Church

Asperger's_Are_Us_in_2011For those who don’t know, our eldest son, Joshua, was diagnosed with a form of autism called High-Function Aspergers when he was 11. Without going into a thorough history of Aspergers and where the phrase comes from, people with Aspergers tend to be seen as odd and have difficulties understanding common communication. They don’t understand facial expressions and sometimes come across as excessive in their behaviour and clumsy in how they do things. Forgetful, perhaps – or, more accurately, lost in a world where things like keys are not that important. 🙂 Certain social conventions are missing, and they either never have these, or ‘tack them on’ through training later in life.

I guess some people have always been like this – now we have a label to describe it.

Another example – non-Aspergers people (Aspergers call these people ‘neuro-typical’) develop the ability to understand facial expressions when they are around four or five years old. However – if you have Asperger’s, you don’t ever acquire this naturally, but you can get software in which Daniel Radcliffe shows you around 50 facial expressions, and you can – over time, and with an algorithm – learn to recognise what each facial expression means.

The High-Function form of Asperger’s means that as well as having your ‘brain wired differently’, you are also very bright. This intelligence means that you can hide some of the characteristics of how your brain is wired differently through training and always thinking twice before you do anything. It’s a bit like always speaking in a foreign language – you are doing a lot of things with your brain at the same time to appear ‘normal’, and this can tire you out.

When Joshua was diagnosed, we cried, but we have come to see that Joshua is quite a unique and a very, very gifted person. He had difficult times at school because people did not understand him and how he was different, but the more he specialises in life, the less important the ‘differences from normal’ become, and the ‘brilliant extreme’ that he is becomes more valuable.

I am not an expert on Asberger’s – if you want to know more then click here

This article however, is not about Joshua. It’s more about me – his dad.

When Joshua was diagnosed, the people at the hospital pointed out that Joshua would go on to be very successful in a niche field in which he would probably become an expert. He would have some close friends, but they would be hard to make. In fact, said the Doctors, “just like his dad, who also is High-Function Aspergers”.

Up until that time, I did not know that I was also a High-Function Asperger, but as we researched this for Joshua , I realised more and more the truth of this, and although I can do a lot of things like other ‘neuro-typical’ people, some things still defeat me. Not because I don’t try, but because I can’t ever do them – my brain is not wired that way. You might as well tell a man with a limp to walk straight. The problem with Aspergers is  the ‘limp’ is inside the brain – so many do not realise it is there at all, and never make any adjustments for it.

Let’s talk about language – which is actually very important. But to talk about language, I need to digress into history. Let’s go back 200 years to the time when a certain section of society was persecuted for being different. I am talking about people who were left-handed. These days we see left-handedness as just an attribute of a person, but a few hundred years ago, it was not seen as that. It was seen as a sign of evil. There are many stories of people, alive even now, who had left-handedness beaten out of them when they were children. They ‘suffered’ from left-handedness. We look back and think that is terrible, that the loving church of Jesus would never do that, but actually the church was no different from any other section of society, and many Christians at the time quoted ‘the right handedness of God’

Now let’s turn back to Aspergers – and for this next bit I have to thank Joshua for explaining this to me.

People no more ‘suffer’ from Asperger’s than they ‘suffer’ from left-handedness or being white or black.

People no more ‘have’ Asperger’s than they ‘have’ left-handedness.

‘People are Aspergers’ is the phrase Joshua (and others who are Aspergers) ask us to use. It’s now the preferred way of describing people who are brain-wired like this.

Let’s talk about distractions.

People used to complain to me that Joshua would put them off by reading or walking around during worship and sermons. ‘How can he concentrate on the Lord whilst he is reading?’ they would say. ‘How can he be listening to the sermon?’

I would patiently explain that Joshua’s brain was wired differently from theirs, and what looks like normal behaviour in their children would be abnormal behaviour in Joshua. We should no more tell an Asperger off for distracting people by walking around in their own world than we should tell off a man with a damaged leg for limping.

By the way – if you are reading this and realise you’ve said to me, let me just say we forgive you completely and love you completely. It doesn’t matter. Love covers all. I used to think the same as you until the hospital explained it to me, so I can’t judge.

These days  I see lots of people whose behaviour I would have judged previously, but who I can now see are ‘brain-wired differently’ and mainly need love. Love that is not a ‘social worker project’ but genuine love from one sinner to another.

Let’s talk about judging and loving

If you can see all that, let me now move on to some other things for Christians to see.

– People who are Aspergers don’t want to be ‘healed’. To be ‘healed’ would be to remove the main essence of who they are. Would you pray to heal someone of being left-handed? Or black?

– People who are Aspergers don’t even need to be understood better – in church, they just need to be loved and not judged. If there was ever a place where people could be loved and not judged, it should be the church of Jesus. Sadly its more usually the other way round. Jesus loves us all unconditionally – we don’t follow his example.

I guess what I want is people I spend time with not to assume they know why I do things unless they ask me and get a clear answer. I think I can be approached. I simply don’t do things for the same reasons others would do them. Don’t see me doing something and think ‘If I did that it would be attention seeking behavoir therefore that must be why he or she does it’. Why not give it a go and ask ‘Why did you do that?’

To judge Aspergers for their behaviour before asking them why they do things the way they do is, I believe, the sin that Jesus was talking about when he said, ‘Do not judge.’

Matthew 7:1-2 (NIV) : “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you

John 7:24 (NIV) : Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”

I honestly believe that the church will change the world when all Christians (inc leaders) stop judging people and show love instead.

1 Cor 13:5 (NIV) : Love … keeps no record of wrong-doings.

I’m really starting to get tired of people bringing up what I did 5 years ago as though it was yesterday and not believing people can change.

For Asbergers, the challenge of fitting in at school (where you are different and judged) , becomes the challenge of fitting in at church (where you are different and judged)

Let’s talk about crowds.

I know this is hard for people who know me to believe is true, but I really don’t like crowds. Crowds are not the same as a church where I am preaching. I know how churches behave – even ones where the Holy Spirit is moving 🙂

I know how they behave and I know how I am to behave. I’ve learnt those rules and can operate in them.

Crowds are really different. I don’t know if my behaviour is good or bad. Am I loud or too quiet? Am I popping up everywhere? Am I ‘in your face’? If you are not an Asperger, you learn how to see facial feedback on this by how people react and what their emotions are – which you can face-read. If you are an Asperger, you are lost – a lone person in the crowd; a stranger in a strange land. That’s why you will see me sometimes ‘stick’ to my wife Merle at parties – She is my only protection.

I love being invited to parties (I want to be popular), but I hate going to them!

Even the ‘mill-around’ after church when people are talking to each other is a challenge. If there was a church full of Aspergers, they wouldn’t have coffee afterwards – not unless it was arranged better.

 I have a friend who has a T-shirt that simply says, ‘Sorry I’m late – I didn’t want to come.’

Did you know that Asbergers are sometimes accussed of being ‘stand offish’ and at the same time also as ‘too friendly- always hanging around when not wanted – always in your face – always popping up’ – perhaps now you can understand more of  why.

Let’s talk about changing the world.

Let’s go back to that date when Joshua was diagnosed. When I talked with Dr Harpin at the hospital, I asked her for feedback on how I planned to explain all this to my 11-year-old boy. I went through how I would put it:

– Your brain is wired differently – which is good news and bad news.

– The good news is that you will have superpowers that no one else has, but also weaknesses that others don’t have.

– The bad news is you will feel and behave differently from other – average – people.

– Never call them ‘normal’ and yourself ‘not normal’. They are average and you are exceptional.

– The bad news is that they will judge you and probably bully you for being different.

– The good news is you are very bright, so that will help.

– The good news is that the older you get, the more what you specialise in will matter and the less fitting in will matter.

– The good and bad news is you will always see the world differently.

‘How does that sound?’ I asked Dr Harpin.

‘Fine,’ she said. ‘Just add, “The good news is people like Joshua can change the world because Joshua can see the world from the outside.”’

It reminded me of Jesus – who also sees the world from the outside.

Ian

P.S. This post has taken me 4 years to write! I started it over 4 years ago and it has been through a few re-writes. I keep putting it away and then reading it again. If you know me personally please don’t read anything into the timing of this post. The timing is simple – I am finally happy with the article. 🙂

For anyone who is  interested I am really in a great place, full of peace. I know who I am in God and what he has called me to be and do. I am surrounded in the church we attend by people I love who understand and value me – it’s wonderful.

Ian lives and works in Sheffield, with his wife, Merle, his sons and a dog, and worships at ‘A Heart for Woodseats’ – a local charismatic church in Sheffield. He is a christian author and blogs at ianbanner.com. To keep in touch with what Ian and Merle are doing click here

Kingdom etiquette for Emails/Text/WhatsApp etc.

You probably read my previous post ‘The parable of the Five spears”, where I mentioned a set of principles for  email that I use.  I received lots of questions asking for me to post this. It is pinned on my office wall and here it is

I originally decided to adapted an article  by Micheal Hyatt at michaelhyatt.com. I highly recommend his work to anyone.  Michael writes for businesses; I have amended and reduced his points and focused only on church/kingdom use. I have left most of the copy as Micheal wrote it, but amended or removed where necessary only.

STUFF ABOUT BEING NICE
  1. Be mindful of your tone. Unlike face-to-face meetings or even phone calls, those who read your e-mail messages don’t have the benefit of your pitch, tone, inflection, or other non-verbal cues. As a result, you need to be careful about your tone. Sarcasm is especially dangerous. If something gets “lost in translation,” you risk offending the other party. The more matter-of-fact you can be, the better. When writing or sharing in email/text/whatapp with people who do not have English as their first language this is even more the case. I suggest you over index on politeness.
  2. Don’t use e-mail to criticize others. E-mail is a terrific way to commend someone or praise them. It is not an appropriate medium for criticism. Chances are, you will simply offend the other person, and they will miss your point. These kinds of conversations are usually better handled face-to-face or, if necessary, over the phone. Especially, don’t use e-mail to criticize a third party. E-mail messages live forever. They are easily forwarded. You can create a firestorm of conflict if you are not careful. Trust me, I’ve done it myself more than once.
  3. Don’t reply in anger. In the heat of the moment, I have written some brilliant replies. I have said things in writing that I would never have the guts to say face-to-face. This is precisely why you should never ever fire off an e-mail in anger. They almost never serve their purpose or your long-term interests. They burn up relationships faster than just about anything you can do. If it makes you feel better, go ahead and write the message, then delete it. Usually a day or two after you didn’t send an angry e-mail, you’ll understand the wisdom of restraint.
  4. Don’t “copy up” as a means of coercion. It’s one thing to copy someone’s boss as a courtesy. I do this whenever I am making an assignment to someone who is not a direct report. (I don’t want their boss to think I am going around them, but I also don’t want to bog my communication down in bureaucratic red tape.) But it is not a good idea to do this as a subtle—or not-so subtle—form of coercion. You may be tempted to do this when you don’t get a response to an earlier request. But I would suggest that you will be better served to pick up the phone and call the person. If they are not responding to your e-mails, try a different communications strategy.
  5. Don’t write in ALL CAPS. This is the digital equivalent of shouting. Besides ALL CAPS are harder to read (as anyone in advertising will tell you.)
  6. Remember that any email you send could ultimately been seen by anyone. Assume anyone you are writing about will ultimately read what you have written. Anyone you send an email to can sent it on without your permission or agreement.
  7. Using blind copy (BCC) is not nice. It means you want some people to know things you don’t want others to know and that won’t build trust over time. It’s simply gossiping!
STUFF ABOUT BEING EFFICIENT
  1. Understand the difference between “To” and “CC.” As a rule of thumb, the more people you send an email to, the less likely any single person will respond to it, much less perform any action that you requested. The people you include in the “To” field should be the people you expect to read and respond to the message. The “CC” field should be used sparingly. You should only CC people who have a need to stay in the know. The “BCC” field should be used even more sparingly. People you include in the “BCC” field will not be visible to others and transparency aand trust are key to the use of email in church.
  2. Keep messages brief and to the point. Make your most important point first, then provide detail if necessary. Make it clear at the beginning of the message why you are writing. There is nothing worse for the recipient than having to wade through a long message to get to the point. Worse, if you send long messages, it is much less likely that the person will act on what you have sent or respond to it. It’s just too much work. It often gets set aside and, unfortunately, forgotten.
  3. Don’t discuss multiple subjects in a single message. If you need to discuss more than one subject, send multiple e-mails. This makes it easy to scan subject lines later to find the message you need. It also contributes to briefer e-mail messages and a greater likelihood of a response. Also, the more specific you can be about your subject heading, the better.
  4. Reply in a timely manner. I don’t think e-mail demands an instantaneous response. I have written about this elsewhere. Responding once or twice a day is sufficient, unless you are in sales, customer service, tech support, or some other field where a faster response is expected. Regardless, you must reply in a timely manner, otherwise you will incrementally damage your reputation and decrease your effectiveness. If you ar enot going to repy to something that you need to reply to, then at least send a short message saying you have read it and wil lget back tothhe author.
  5. Don’t overuse “reply to all.” Last week I received an e-mail from someone who needed to know my shirt-size for a golf tournament. He sent the e-mail to about ten or twelve people. No problem with that. However, some of the recipients, hit the “reply all” key (out of habit, I am sure) and sent their shirt size to everyone on the list. This, of course, just adds more clutter to everyone’s already unwieldy inbox. Your default response should be to reply only to the sender. Before you reply to everyone, make sure that everyone needs to know.
  6. Don’t forward chain letters. These can be forgiven when they are from your mother, but they only add clutter in the workplace. Nine times out of ten, the information is bogus. It is often urban legend. If you feel you absolutely must pass it on, please make sure that it is valid information. If in doubt, check it out at Snopes.com, a Web site devoted to tracking urban legends and rumors.
  7. Don’t overuse the “high priority” flag. Most e-mail programs allow you to set the priority of the message. “High priority” should be reserved for messages that are truly urgent. If you use it for every message (as one person I know does), you will simply be ignored. It’s like the boy who cried “wolf” one too many times.
  8. Use a signature with your contact information. This is a courtesy for those receiving your messages. It also cuts down on e-mail messages, since people don’t have to send a second or third e-mail asking for your phone number or mailing address.
  9. Provide “if-then” options. This is another tip I picked up from Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Work Week. He says to provide options to avoid the back and forth of single option messages. For example, “If you have completed the assignment, then please confirm that via e-mail. If not, then please estimate when you expect to finish.” Or, “I can meet at 10:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m. Will one of those times work? If not, would you please reply with three times that would work for you?”
  10. Re-read your e-mail before you send it. I try to do this with every single message. My fingers have difficulty keeping up with my brain. It is not unusual for me to drop a word or two as I am racing to transcribe a thought. Therefore, it’s a good idea to re-read your messages and make sure that you are communicating clearly and observing good e-mail etiquette.

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The parable of the five spears

From my friend David - a parable

Well you all know that we have had a quite a year in the Banner household, but the outstanding event in my mind is the support of David Katende to help me plot this way through quite a mess.

His big advice was to not respond to emails, and he told the following story that he grew up with in Uganda.

If a man has 5 spears and throws one at you – to try and hurt you – if you catch it and send it back to him with extra vigour, and keep doing that every time he throws a spear at you, at the end he will still have 5 spears to throw at you next time.

Instead, if every time he throws a spear at you, you catch it and keep it safe, but don’t throw it back. In the end he will have no spears left and run out of energy.

Whilst a simple parable, it was probably the single best piece of advice I have ever received, and probably the most useful piece of advice for my future as well.

I am a little known – in my past – for my bad emails. Can I say sorry to anyone who has received a bad one from me?

I now use an ’email ettiquette’ document that I edited from michealhyatt.com that helps me make sure I keep true to my beliefs (and not my bad behaviour)

What about you? How do you make sure that you don’t make a mistake with emails?

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Now I know why Africans don’t have watches :)

This is the first update only from Ian since this update is about the trip I just finished on my own without Merle.
This was quite a week for me – I learnt a lot and made some very special friends that I think I will have forever.
The background to this visit is that last year I was invited to do a 3 day pastors conference in the centre of Kampala. This was for the network run by John Bunjio. We held it at the church in the centre of town and was hosted by the leader of that church,  Micheal Kimuli.
Between these 2 guys, they look after and are networked to most of the independent charismatic churches in Uganda. At the end of that conference we spent time laying hands on every attendee and prophesied over them. At the end of the queue was Michael and as I layed hands on him, I felt the lord clearly say, “Put yourself at this mans disposal”. So I said these words to Micheal.
A few days later he rang and over a meal – he invited me to come to his National Prayer Conference, which is held just as the school holidays break up at the end of the year just before Christmas. It runs for 6 days and typically has two to three thousand attending.
The invite was to come to several years of the conferences starting last year (2014). If you know me well you will know that last year I had a dream about 2 weeks before the conference where the Lord told me to NOT go to the 2014 conference. If you know me well you will know why it was important that I was in the UK for that week last year.
So finally I went this year (2015) with expectations high for what God would do.
To say I was not disappointed would be an understatement. I had the privilege of the leading the very first session of the conference, the ‘Launch Session’ and I knew we were going to have an amazing time, when at the end of the slot I called forward what I expected to be a few people for prayer under the title of how “God prepares people out of the limelight”. EVERYONE  came forward for prayer (well there might have been 10 people who didn’t – I guess to be accurate I should say nearly everyone came forward). There was an amazing heart for all the the Lord wanted to do.
By the time the second day finished, we were spending hours in prayer and worship and finishing at least 2 hours late – but the Lords presence was amazing/wonderful/unbelievable. I posted a FB update saying if this was Tuesday what would Saturday be like? It was then that I understood why africans don’t worry about the time!
The Lords Presence and Prayer just grew and grew every session – every day.
As well as taking 4 of the preaching slots (which was a high privilege for the first year I was there) I also was invited to give a final prophetic vision for what God wanted to do in Uganda in 2016 – which will be a very significant year. I felt so honoured and trusted by my  Lord.
We then anointed everyone with oil and a prophetic word about breakthrough in prayer and fasting for 2016 and called everyone to 2 weeks of Prayer and Fasting to start 2016. There is a huge day of prayer on the 15th Jan to mark the end of the prayer fortnight across Uganda-the church are taking over football stadiums. I must say being able to pray for all the attendees along with the other international guest breakers and Apostles  was a moment that makes me cry just thinking about it.
I met and fell in love with some more wonderful people, on top of all those that I already knew, including Micheal and his wonderful wife Sarah, their family, Barbera (who was my PA for the week – with a job to make sure I was at the right place at the right time! Not always successfully thanks to some confusion on my part!), Jean-Luc (from Canada) and Frank (from Rwanda). Just as the week finished I also met an amazing woman from CTF Canada called Perry.
On top of that, the hundreds and hundreds of people we got to pray for.
I know I will meet nearly all of these again for next years Prayer conference in 2016, which will be bigger and better.
I received an amazing amount of Love and Encouragement from all that were there, but the best comment I received was from Micheal’s wife who told me that I was different from many other UK teachers they knew, because I can ‘pray like an african for hours’. I must say this made me smile a lot. Just being told I was an Arican made my heart sing.
Please pray for us – I received many  invites to travel next year to lots of different countries for conferences and lots of confirming words about that.
Many the Lord give Merle and I wisdom and breakthrough.
Finally – I have re-written the post 4 times now to try and make sure everything points to the one and only Lord Jesus – please forgive me if I have not done a good enough job at pointing to him. He deserves the highest Praise.
Thank You
Ian

Pure and faultless religion – The Story of Forever Caring Homes

FCH familyI first Met Sarah Mbezzi in a dream. 2 years ago, I was traveling to Uganda with an invite for a conference at Life Changing Church, Lubowa, Kampala. I already had a desire to start something that would help the widows and orphans. I had not told David (Pastor at LCC) about this at all – then I had a dream just as I arrived. In the dream I saw the face of an old lady. I did not know what the dream meant but stored it in my heart.

On the second day of the conference, we were praying for everyone at the end of the second session. I had already prayed for all those who had come forward to the front and I was now working may way through the queue that stretched up the isle. I came to a huge broad shouldered man, who didn’t really look African, and he just said to me, “the Lord says WELL DONE”, and then he turned away to reveal this little old, tired little woman who was looking bewildered.

I realised immediately that this was the woman in the dream, but in the dream she was happy. On that day she did not look happy at all. My translator Henry told me the story, that Sarah was someone who would come round and clean the church for free to say thank you for what the lord has done, but she was not well. Henry had gone to get her to come into the church from the kitchen building for prayer, she has said that she was not worthy of my prayers but Henry insisted.

Sarah and her grandchildren lived nearby in a room they shared with a goat and all the children were ill with HIV. They had lost their mother and Father in the AIDS epidemic that swept through Uganda in the years before. None of the children could read and none were attending school and they all had several behavioural difficulties in relating to the other kids. One of the children (Rashida) was very unwell.

(In the next post i’ll send you pictures of Sarah and the children from that time and since)

After  had prayed for Sarah I went to see David and arranged a package to care for them. This included a move to a new home and made sure they got the drugs they needed to keep AIDS at bay. When I first saw David about all this, he new none of my plans for Sarah, but immediately pledged his support to the project and arranged for all sort of things to happen

1. Proper medical understanding of what was going on in their bodies
2. New accommodation for the family
3. Food
4. Beds and Mattresses and nets (before they moved, they just slept on the floor in the goat hut)

David has supported this work brilliantly including covering financial commitments when I was unable to do so. I am privileged  to call David a co-worker in Christ

Every visit since I have met Sarah and the children and prayed for them – always we are in tears of joy for what God is doing.

But this year was very special for us – Merle (who Sarah calls Mama) was with me. I knew the meeting  was going to be very emotional, so I arranged for it to be after the conference had finished.

We saw all the family during the church services and conference but it was not until the last day we visited Sarah at her rooms.

The children had delayed going to to the local CofE school that day when we visited and we started by giving them each a sweet and sat down in noew of the rooms.

Sarah has a room she shares with Mika, and there is another room with a bed for Moses and Rashida. There is one other room with a table in. This is where we met. You will see from the pictures in the next post that the rooms are hardly good, but you will also see the picture of where they used to sleep.

As we sat and talked, Sarah told us how everyone was doing at school and their health.

FCH familyMILKA (the youngest girl)

Since we started helping Milka with schooling early, she caught up with the CofE school standard earliest, but had some behaviour problems. These have now setted down and she is now making friends and is a very happy young girl

 

FCH familyRASHIDA
Rashida was very ill when we met her and when she was first tested the doctors put her in a cluster of children that they didn’t have much hope for. There were 250 children in that cluster 2 years ago  – Rashida is now the only one still alive, and her latest D4 counts are perfect. This is a combination of the drugs we buy and the fact she eats consistently and has most of the balance she needs in her food. It is overwhelming to think that she has all she needs to grow and thrive at a cost of around a cup of coffee a week. I know as Sarah talked all this through it was nearly too much for Merle to take in, and lots of tears appeared in all of us.

Initially all the children had to have private tuition just to get them to the school standard – this included getting them used to regular hours for attendance and rules of life and understanding a school uniform, etc.

Rashida is a little behind the average for her class but is improving in all the subjects

FCH familyMOSES
It took a lot of work to get Moses healthy and seeing the point of going to school at all, but to see him now playing football and telling me how he wants to use the chance we have given him to work hard and help his grand mum was nice to see. He doesn’t speak any English, so most communication between us is ‘respectful nods’. We have developed a way of saying we love each other through a set of signs we do and it’s great whenever I see him that he does this, witch essentially means ‘thank you for your love’

 

FCH familySARAH
To say Sarah looks and behaves differently from when we first met would be an understatement. In her own words (translated) she said …..

– before our help she did not belive  she had any value and thought of herself as like other things with no value – like dogs. Every day was just survival and she tried to stay away from people because she did not think she was the same thing as them. The family lived in the barn basically and the goat was more important than she was. He eat first since his milk was needed by the owner of the barn.
– When we first started helping she was sure it was a cruel joke and we really wanted to take the children away
– now with the help of us and the help of the older ladies group she has understood how to behave and she feels loved and valuable. She has a hope for the future and thanks the Lord and prays for us every day.

IAN AND MERLE
It is difficult to describe how all this makes us feel. We feel overwhelmed that this world is so broken that so little from us can make such a change for them. We feel privileged that the Lord has allowed us to connect and give Sarah and the children hope and a future. The words of Jeremiah 39:11 come to mind.

WHAT NEXT
We continue to support Sarah and the family and would find like to do 2 things

(1) Open up the project to other children who we could help
(2) Buy some land to build small houses. We currently rent some rooms, but it would be far better to buy some land and build a small 2 room house. For that we need to find the right land and then build on it. The estimated project cost is around 5000GBP.

5000GBP to change someones life for ever.

I don’t usually do this, but if you can help in any way with a regular financial gift (even £10 a month would make a real difference, then please let us know by email (ribanner@gmail.com). If enough people commit to help, we can add more children to the project.

James 1:27 says : Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress

Thanks for reading this
Ian and Merle

James Altucher – Fabulous article

I have no idea how to link to the original article, so I have put it here for all my friends to read and enjoy.Please google James and see his fabulous writing

This Is What Happens When You Try To Do the Impossible

by James Altucher 

Daniel was tending sheep in Sudan when a bomb blew both his arms off.

When he heard the bombs in the distance he had hidden behind a tree but wrapped his arms around the tree. A bomb went off near the tree and his body was safe.

But the arms he had wrapped around the tree blew off. When he came to, he said he wished he were dead so he would not be a burden on his family. He was 12 years old.

I was ashamed to be talking to Mick Ebeling.

Here’s why: when I hear the story above about Daniel I think: that’s really sad. I think: I wish that hadn’t happened to him. I think: I’m glad it didn’t happen to me or anyone I know.

Mick thinks differently. Mick flew over to the Sudan without any knowledge of arms or war or prosthetics. He got together a bunch of experts on 3D printing, prosthetics, mechanics.

He 3D printed arms for Daniel in a way that had never been done before, cheaper than prosthetics had ever been made before.

Daniel now has two prosthetic arms. He can feed himself. He can help his family again.

I spoke with Mick yesterday. I told him I was ashamed to be talking to him because I would not have thought that way.

He laughed and told me his theories on helping people. His company, “Not Impossible” ignores high stakes situations where people say “It’s impossible” and figures out how to make the situations possible.

Here’s how:

A) HELP ONE. HELP MANY. 

He used his experience with Daniel to come up with ideas on prosthetics that could help many people. He helped “Tempt”, a graffiti artist, use a machine Mick developed to create art again and communicate with people again.

Then he uses the experiences of helping one to create products that can help many.

B) BRING RIDICULOUS TO ACCESSIBLE

It was ridiculous to get cheap prosthetics to Daniel in the Sudan without any experience. And yet, just a little brainstorming with the right experts, gave Daniel arms. And now the same technology is accessible to anyone.

C) USE STORY

Intel sponsored Mick’s efforts. He went to Intel and told the story of Daniel and told the story of how he was already helping Daniel, with or without Intel, and Intel agreed to sponsor the rest of the journey.

For 5000 years or longer, humanity has driven forward with story-telling. Too many people forget that but the only way to really communicate effectively is through story.

D) EVERYONE HAS PERMISSION

Nobody gave Mick permission to help Daniel. He just did it. Nobody gave him permission to gather a bunch of experts to his house to help figure out how to create prosthetics that everyone said were impossible. He just did it.

Too often we apply for grants. Or we apply to a company. Or we apply to the government. And then we wait. And we wait. And we want that one special person to choose us.

I hate to use my own cliche, but the benefits of choosing yourself is that other people’s lives are saved while you avoid waiting for someone else to choose you.

E) “We’re already doing this”. 

Mick didn’t wait to begin. He didn’t wait for funding. He didn’t wait to figure it all out in advance before he started.

As soon as he committed to helping Daniel he immediately:

– found the experts he needed to talk to (free)

– got them all talking (mostly free)

– started brainstorming (free)

– got materials for one set of arms to be 3D printed (mostly free)

– began experimenting (mostly free)

Then he went to intel and others and said, “We’re already doing this. Are you in?”

Too many people say, “I have an idea. Now I need funding.”

Don’t do that anymore. Stop it!

Say instead, “I’m already doing this. Here’s the ten or twenty things I’ve done so far. Here’s the results. Are you in?”

F) CHANGE THE DEFINITION OF FAILURE

People think: go go go go go fail stop.

Mick redefined failure.

“We had many failures while trying to figure this out. But each failure was simply a way to show us what we should do what we could do better. Every time we failed we knew at least one thing we could do better.”

G) OPEN SOURCE YOUR SUCCESS

For everything Mick did, even though his company is for profit, he gave away for free all of the knowledge he learned.

Then other people companies could build better prosthetics, or tools for deaf people, or tools to help people with ALS communicate.

Then Mick would be able to incorporate those new technologies back into his products.

The end result: more people helped with better and better products that were being made cheaper and cheaper.

Too many people try to hold onto ideas saying, “it’s mine!”.

But ideas, and the world, get stronger when they are allowed to share and mate and grow children and the idea babies make the world better.

H) LOOK FOR THE ‘ADJACENT POSSIBLE’

When Mick started his research, he found someone who had made a mechanical hand. Not the perfect prosthetic hand. But a cheap hand that could grasp items and be functional.

He started with that and then began brainstorming with the inventor and with others about what else is possible – given that a simple mechanical hand was possible.

Never start with a blank page. Find all the things closest to what you want to be possible and use those ideas as starting points to find the next generation of possible.

I) START SMALL

Mick didn’t help a billion people have better prosthetics. He helped one person.

“If everyone would just help ONE person today then the world will be a better place tomorrow.”

In other words, if everyone reading this article would help one person today, the world will be a better place.

Always think at the end of each day, “who did I help today?”

J) STAND NEXT TO THE SMARTEST PEOPLE

Mick didn’t know anything about prosthetics. But he knew that if he brought together the man who made the cheap, mechanical hand, with experts in 3D printing, with experts in prosthetics, then something good could happen.

Even if you aren’t an expert, give yourself permission to be a producer. Produce!

After the podcast, Mick and I took a walk and I told him stuff.

“How are you dealing with that?” he asked me.

I said, “Every day I follow my own advice.

“I try to be healthy. I spend time with friends. I’m creative every day. And I look at the most difficult part of my situation every day and find things to be grateful for.

“This has been amazing for me to see it work in action for myself. I bounce back stronger every day and I feel like life is amazing.”

“You should write about that,” he said.

I will. I said, “Selfishly, I help one (me), to help many. “

He laughed at that. And we shook hands and then I went one direction and he went to save the world.

Uganda 2015 – God likes to communicate in ways that are special to you

We decided to use the name Flowers in Every Wilderness for special reasons that are already discussed here, and we sort of knew that God was going to do some stuff about flowers and gardening, but our Lord really invested in showing Merle how special she is through the very many ways that he blessed her with stuff to do with flowers.

We had some amazing prophetic words from some of our friends before we left – the theme of these for Merle was that God would meet Merle through the flowers……

As soon as David was back from Nigeria, we went out for a final tourist day before the conferences started. We decided to go to the local botanical gardens. I have experienced the Sheffield Botanical Gardens – so I knew what to expect… or so I thought….

For what was frankly a few pounds’ entrance fee, we arrived at an AMAZING place. The Uganda Botanical Gardens in Kampala are massive and full of the most amazing flowers and birds collected from around the world, from the times of colonial rule.

We saw some amazing flowers …

20151013_144431

Some stunning views

20151013_142005UG2015BG-1 IMG_0153 IMG_0150 IMG_0147  20151013_142005

As we got out of the car, we were approached by a guide called Bright, who was amazing and knew everything about everything. I realised that he and Merle were discussing the flowers in a language that I did not understand but that was perfect for Merle with her knowledge and training.

20151013_155025

As I look back at the day (which can seem like just a tourist day), I realised that God had prepared a wonderful day … almost a perfect day for Merle to experience – just to say how much he loves her. A treat for his special girl.

This theme of gardens and feeding carried on throughout the visit, and even afterwards, when we got home. Merle had decided that she should work out how to grow food well for a limited space. There is lots of land and loads of rain in Uganda! But it isn’t used well.

So she flew home with a desire to investigate how she could help our friends in Uganda with food….

The following weekend, we went to a Catch the Fire European conference and were introduced to a church in Birmingham that runs a programme that does exactly that – the team is called “Harvest Gardens”. Watch out for a bigger post on this in the future as we work out exactly how Merle can work with these people.

As I finish this post I reflect on the amazing things the Lord has done to bring Merle to this space, and I ponder what the Lord will show her next. Finally, I am amazed at how much God talks to you in ways that resonate with you and how he made you.

Ian

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Uganda 2015 – Why “Flowers in Every Wilderness”?

merle and ian-final

I have been asked why we chose “Flowers in Every Wilderness” as the title for our Uganda adventure. There are actually 2 answers to that. (At least!)

The first is that the phrase comes from the end of a prophetic word given to us at Woodseats Baptist Church by a very prophetic lady called Isabel Allum. The full text of that prophecy to Merle and me is as follows:

Father, I thank you for this couple, Lord, and I thank you for the uniqueness of their journey. There is the word “uniqueness” in your lives.

God is saying he is bringing a new set of wings on your back for the two of you, for a greater identity of who you are.

There have been many that have been influenced by a spirit of rejection against you, for there has been an outside spirit of rejection standing against you and influencing other people in how they respond to you.

Many people have been unkind at different times in your journey, but I hear the Lord saying he is coming to remove the lions and tigers and the bears, for there have been many of those that have come unexpectedly. The Lord is coming now to remove them completely.

I hear the Lord saying you are going to eat the honeycomb from the lion’s mouth. You are going to enter into that place, for you are going to say, “It is well with myself – look what the Lord has done.” You have something to show for it, but they are just scars of war, but you will have spoils as well, and you will say this is what you have.

Brother, I saw you writing. The Lord is saying he created a writing gift and anointing within you. Greater inspiration is going to come out of that – greater insight is coming for you.

The Lord is going to visit with you as well, for I heard the Lord say we will spend time seeking him, and there is going to be quite a reality of the atmosphere you are in that is going to cause fellowship with the Trinity coming for you in a greater way.

I heard the Lord saying that at times there has been loneliness in your heart. The Lord is saying he is coming to deal with that now, once and for all. Loneliness is going to disappear from your heart, but sometimes the enemy comes and sprinkles some of that within you. But the Lord says encouragement is coming.

 Scripture says, “Even though sorrow comes in the night,  a shout of joy comes in the morning.” I heard the Lord say you are very close to that morning shout – it is about 3 o’clock in the morning now.

The Lord  is moving you further and further. For I heard the Lord saying there has been delays in your life and journey, but delay does not mean denial, and this is the amazing  thing – God has not changed his mind about you guys.

I hear the Lord saying there is going to be relocation coming for you. God is moving you to another place, and he is coming to plant your tree in another field – the Lord is saying his hand is upon it. He will be the one who is planting you and is re-potting you so you can grow and grow and grow, without restrictions in your life.

There is a restoration of relationships coming in your lives as well – these restorations are going to manifest, but you are also going to see new relationships coming for you.

I saw a spiritual father coming into your lives. I hear the Lord saying just like Timothy had Paul, Elisha had Elijah. God is bringing someone like that into your lives; he is going to bring a lot of healing into your hearts, and he is going to teach you how to become a Paul and an Elijah to Timothies and Elishas who will come to you seeking the same refuge, for the same support, for the same instruction.

Your journeys is the the tool belt that you will create for all your tools. All the tools are from out of your journey, and you will be able to say, “Look at this tool we can use. We can us it here in this situation. Remember that experience we had then. Well, now we can build this.”

And it is time now to see the other side, and God is going to show you how to find the flowers in every wilderness.

We don’t mind anyone seeing this word – it was given in public. As you can see, the final sentence includes the very poetic phrase, “Flowers in Every Wilderness”.

As well as being in that word, the phrase also resonated with Merle and me as the kind of special phrase that God would use to talk to us – in other words, it meant something to us… specially.

The second is that it seems to us that part of what God wants us to do in the future is plant flowers in every wilderness.

The third is that we go to Uganda with a word brewing that Merle’s passion for gardening and growing food will become useful in the long term for our friends and the people we love here in Uganda.

 

Ian and Merle live and work in Sheffield, with their sons (Josh and Matt) and dog (Susy). Ian is a christian author and blogs at ianbanner.com.

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