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The unfailing power that restores lives

NICOLA NEAL

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River Publishing & Media Ltd Barham Court Teston Maidstone Kent ME18 5BZ United Kingdom info@river-publishing.co.uk Copyright © Nicola Neal 2013 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior written consent of the publisher. Short extracts may be used for review purposes. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide ISBN 978-1-908393-33-3 Printed in the United Kingdom Cover design by www.SpiffingCovers.com

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Contents

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Dedication

5

Acknowledgements

7

Chapter 1 – A Journey Into Love

9

Chapter 2 – A Night To Remember

16

Chapter 3 – From Declaration to Application

25

Chapter 4 – Eternity Written on Our Hearts

34

Chapter 5 – Designed For a Purpose

46

Chapter 6 – The Pursuit of the ‘One Thing’

54

Chapter 7 – It’s All For Something

64

Chapter 8 – Transition

74

Chapter 9 – Africa Everywhere

80

Chapter 10 – Learning To Love

86

Chapter 11 – Nothingness

98

Chapter 12 – Brokenness and Sacrifice

103

Chapter 13 – What Does Love Look Like?

112

Chapter 14 – Love Without Walls

124

Chapter 15 – Love Hopes

132

Chapter 16 – Love Casts Out Fear

143

Chapter 17 – Love Chooses To See

155

Chapter 18 – Love Hurts

163

Chapter 19 – Still So Much To Learn

172

About the Author

175

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Dedication For Stephen and Jeanne. Thank you for walking life with me, both through the mountain tops and the valleys. You have been a living example of LOVE to our family and I thank Jesus for the day he joined our lives with yours. Thank you for encouraging me to pursue the things of the Kingdom above everything else; thank you for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself and for encouraging me to keep on dreaming even in the darkest times. You have revealed the love of the Father to me and I will be forever grateful for you both. This book is dedicated to you.

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Acknowledgements Thank you to my amazing team in Africa – you inspire me every day to press in for the more, I love you all. Thank you Rob and Caroline DeLuca for always fighting for us to be who we are called to be. Your friendship is priceless; we love you! Thank you John and Carol Arnott for being such precious spiritual parents and for loving us always. Thank you Jenn Johnson for your love and constant little messages of encouragement that always come at the perfect time! And for allowing me to quote your song ... it will always be a favourite of mine. As will you ! Thank you to our family and friends who have loved and supported us through all the highs and lows of missionary life. And finally ... thank you to my amazing family: To my husband, Simon, for living the dream with me and for never giving up, however crazy it got! I Love you now more than ever. James and Chantelle, I love you both more than words can say. Thank you for so selflessly following Mummy and Daddy to Africa and giving up everything to help us love the poor. You are my heroes of the faith!

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Chapter One A Journey Into Love Haura is walking! ‘Haura is walking! Haura is walking! Haura is walking!’ That was nearly all I could say for a good fifteen minutes after reading my text message, while at the same time crying, laughing and jumping up and down. ‘Did you hear what I said? Haura is walking!’ I kept shouting. Some of the team with me, as they understood what I was screaming about, began to join in laughing and dancing around the room too, while everyone else in the room just stared at us as we celebrated. What was going on? Who was Haura and why was it such a big deal that she was walking anyway? After a short time, overwhelmed with emotion, I quietly slipped away to a dark corner of the room, fell onto my knees and wept, whispering over and over again, ‘Webale, Yesu.’ You have to know Haura to understand the magnitude of what had happened that day, or at least know a little of her story… We first met Haura in 2009. She lived in Kasubi slum with her mama, and her life was one of darkness, poverty and hopelessness. 9

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Journey Into Love

Mama struggled each day trying to provide and care for Haura as best she could, but her difficult circumstances and physical challenges made this a very difficult task. In the world’s eyes, Haura is not beautiful. She is not the sort of child whose photo would appear on poster campaigns, in magazines or on mantelpieces. She has no real hope for her future, being born into a slum family, living in extreme poverty, severely disabled and totally dependent on those around her for everything. Nevertheless she is one of the most beautiful little girls I have ever had the honour of knowing. The very first day I met her, as I held her tiny, broken body in my arms, something happened in my heart and I fell in love. Whenever I got the chance to spend time with Haura, I would. She brings a purity of light into my world. When she smiles, it illuminates everything around her and the sound of her crackled little voice and laugh fills my heart with joy. She has the most incredible eyes, and as you gaze into them, you get lost in the beauty you find there, deep, brown, shining and full of love. When I look into them, I feel as if I am looking into the eyes of Jesus himself. In the world’s eyes she is damaged goods, broken, forgotten and worth nothing, yet to Jesus she is a treasure. She is priceless, a precious jewel hidden away in the dirt of the slums. Not long after we met Haura, we were desperate to do something for her which would make a difference to her difficult life. So we took her to the best doctors we could find to see what could be done, but in the end they all said that they could do nothing. Cerebral malaria had done its worst and she was paralyzed from the neck down and blind, with no hope of improvement. One day as I sat in our office, I felt the Lord ask me what I could believe for Haura. Could I dare to believe for him to heal her, so she could be able to lift her head, to smile, to see, to talk, to walk?

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A Journey Into Love

Something began to stir on the inside of me and hope began to fill my heart, until I could answer him with a simple yes, yes, yes: I could believe. So we decided that every day a member of our team would go and visit Haura’s house and hold her, worship Jesus and simply love her. To be honest, there wasn’t much else we could do; we had nothing else to offer her. There was no medicine in the world that could make her better, no witchdoctor powerful enough to help (they had tried), no alternative therapies strong enough to heal her broken body. The only thing we had to give her was the love of Jesus, knowing that love is actually more powerful than any solution the Western world could offer her anyway. So we went, almost every day, for two years. Whatever the weather, whether we felt like going or not, we went and poured out his love over her life, just as it had been so graciously poured out over ours. I remember the day that Amy came home from the slum saying that Haura had moved her head! It was a tiny movement, but still she had turned her head towards the person who was holding her and talking to her. It was such a small thing, but it was real, it was a miracle, and oh, how we celebrated. I remember, too, the day she came home saying that Haura had been smiling – not only smiling, but also laughing! It had been her second birthday and we had gone to her tiny slum house to celebrate her life. The house was packed full of our team, her family and friends and most importantly, love. She had actually smiled, and then she laughed! I have never seen my team as happy as they were that day. We were so thankful to Jesus for yet another miracle in Haura’s little life. So we had seen many wonderful things happen Haura in the two years we had known her. Little by little, hope was being restored to her family, and in the midst of it all her Muslim mama found Jesus.

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Journey Into Love

She was baptized in a dirty old water tank just outside the slum, on a very special Tuesday afternoon, with the whole community watching. Haura and her mama were responding to the love that was all around them and it was wonderful to be part of it. Then early one evening in November 2011, I was in a youth meeting in the UK and my phone beeped. I looked down and there was the message: ‘Nicola – I can hardly believe what I have just seen – Haura is walking!’ Once again I was completely undone: undone by love. Haura is continuing to do well and is now able to take small steps with the use of a walking frame. If I have learned anything over the four years I have been living in Africa, it is that God’s love really does have the power to transform everything it touches. It is God’s love that transformed me, rescuing me from my own darkness and pain and putting me back together again. And it is his love that I see now transforming the lives of some of the poorest people on the face on the earth. I have seen Jesus. I have seen his love cause the blind to see, the lame to walk and the broken to be restored. It has happened countless times, over and over, again and again and I know that scripture is true when it says, ‘Love never fails’ (1 Corinthians 13:8). So this is the story of my own ‘journey into love,’ of how love came down and restored me, taking me from a place of brokenness, desperation and fear into a new world of life, joy and hope. And this is how we now have the privilege of having our lives used by God to rescue and see restored countless others on the beautiful continent of Africa…

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My Heart – Amy I want to be one who looks at impossibilities as opportunities, not stopping places. I want to be one who dreams the dreams others are too scared to hope for. I want to allow problems to become my springboard into the glory of God. Death can’t stop me. Disease won’t sway me. They will only push me deeper, make me run faster. I want to walk into the darkness and find the light. I want to find treasure inside the hearts of prostitutes, drug addicts and witch doctors. I want to see the value in the hundreds who cross my path each day. I want my opinions to be formed not by the world, but by what God says. I want to love. I want to give myself, my money, my time, my heart. I want to surrender everything. I want to run hard. I want to go wherever he whispers. I want to see the ones written on his heart and bring them home. I want to be unfazed by danger, to count my life as nothing. I want to feel only the longings of his heart. I want to understand the cost. I want to see him bleeding on the cross, his eyes burning for me, for them. I want to feel the love that led him there, feel his fiery passion for them to come home. I want to see only him, to care only for his desires. To give all I have, so that he can have the reward of his sufferings.

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Journey Into Love - Nicola Neal