Seeking more of His presence

Written by Mike Verkaik

“Are we going to go to this again next week? When we get back, we need to begin a praise and prayer time like this at our church!” Those were the words of the students after attending an hour of praise and prayer time at a local church in Fish Hoek. Even though it was a Monday night and it went longer than most of the students church services back home, it didn’t matter as they were caught up in the presence of their risen King through the power of prayer, praise and testimony.

What was it that kept them longing for more as they left that evening and walked back to the Retreat Center. I believe it was a glimpse and taste of heavenly worship. Revelation 5 worship as the elders fall down before our triumphant Lamb, holding golden bowls of our persistent prayers which give off a fragrance of incense before the throne of our Father. And the angels joining in song:

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousands times  ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:

“worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

Revelation 5:11-12

What a privilege it was, as a follower of Jesus, to dwell in that room, filled with the Holy Spirit, and join our South African brothers and sisters in unified praise and prayer to our Father. As the night progressed, the barriers of fear, and others perception of us were stripped away as we found new freedom in being the worshippers we were created to be.

So, the students, being true to their word and conviction, held the first praise and worship time this past Sunday in Western Michigan. With the music and prayers still echoing in my head, I sit and ponder all that God orchestrated through their hungry hearts. Africa taught these students about their God. How their Dad delights in them and they can trust Him as a good Father, how Jesus longs for us to live in the freedom of the cross and the power of His resurrection, and how to rest in the presence of the Holy Spirit who equips us anytime He calls us to step on the water and trust.

As the people began to file in last night, we stood in amazement as we started adding more chairs to the horseshoe to accommodate the overflow of people. Then the lyrics to the first song began:

There is nothing worth more, that could ever come close, No thing could compare, You’re our living hope.
Your presence Lord.

I’ve tasted and seen, of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free, and my shame is undone. Your presence Lord.

How fitting to begin worshiping our God from the position of our emptiness in life without Him. Tasting and understanding the love our Father has for us, and the freedom we obtain when we live into His presence. Freedom from guilt, shame and fear that brings His hope and joy to our souls.

A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else!

Psalm 84:10 (NLT)

As we finished our worship time, I was struck by what a blessing it is to be a part of a community that corporately seeks more of the presence of our Lord. A community praising and praying together while sharing in the joys and the sufferings of being a follower of our resurrected Lord. The good news is you don’t need to go to South Africa with us to experience it. It is as close as finding a local church/group that has a passion for asking, seeking and sharing more of His presence. Go find a place, or start a group where you can join with the angels in saying;

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise.

“Graves into Gardens”

On Resurrection Sunday singing the song “Graves into Gardens” reminded me about the power of the Gospel to transform the most broken places, such as a grave, into a place of beauty, a garden.

Resurrection Day is the believers victory day!  All our sin, pain, and brokenness was buried with Christ in His death and on the 3rd day when the Father raised up His beloved Son, the curse of sin and death was broken forever. Faith is the gift given by Jesus to bring us back into fellowship with our Father into a “New Garden” where there is restoration.

As we were singing the chorus….

“You turn graves into gardens, You turn bones into armies, You turn seas into highways, You’re the only One who can…”

a picture of a township Oceans has recently been involved in flashed into my mind. This relatively unknown space just outside of Cape Town, (in the picture above) is a place of extreme poverty and brokenness and basically a dump. Yet, these are the places where Jesus loves to unleash His Resurrection Power and turn graves into gardens.

On Good Friday that dump turned into a place of worship as hundreds from the community were fed both physical and spiritual food. The gospel message that Christ Jesus can take His children out of death and bring them true life was heard. It has been amazing to watch God use our friend Pastor Raymond his wife Pamela, and their team  “Love in Action” beautify this place with the love of the King.

Because of the Resurrection and the Spirit of Jesus living in His children our brokenness and weakness can be transformed into something beautiful.  Our sin and filth is a spiritual dumping ground, and yet because of Jesus, all of this is forever buried in a grave just outside Jerusalem and transformed into a new garden producing fruit that brings glory to our Father. Fruit that will spill over into the world with His love in action. The Holy Spirit can bring life into the darkest places.

Jimshebosh Township is being transformed by the Power of the Resurrection through the gospel of love. May you find hope today in the power of the Resurrection and a Father God who loves to turn graves into gardens.

**The pictures that follow are the building just erected on a cleared dump. Preparations are being made to make this into a  ministry center for feeding the community as well as a much needed pre-school for the children. Thank you to those in the Ocean family for your part in turning graves (and dumps) into a garden for God’s glory!






Where True Joy Comes From!

Written by Mike Verkaik

An amazing team from Haven church in Zeeland and Holland Christian just returned from Oceans Retreat Center.  Working through jet lag, my heart is still overjoyed for such an amazing time, and I  praise Abba for assembling a group with such a hunger to hear from Him during Oceans’ Kingdom Encounter in South Africa.

Beforehand this simple question was asked, “What is your greatest fear concerning this trip?” I was astonished by the deep honesty as they responded with words like, “ I am longing to encounter God in such a new and special way, and am afraid that I will be disappointed.”

Be blessed as you hear from the deep souls of teenagers which have encountered our Father’s Kingdom exploding in their hearts.  Today’s entry is from Sabrina as she spent 2 hours in Groot Constantia, the oldest vineyard in South Africa, followed by a prayer time at Fullies church. 

Monday was a busy but yet such a peaceful day. Mondays are always hard days at Oceanview Care Center because these children have rough family lives and can experience lots of hard things over the weekend. We stayed at the Care Center for a couple of hours and then went to a vineyard for some quiet time and alone time with God.

Anyone who knows me knows that I hate being alone and am always talking to or with people, so this felt like a challenge for me. Once we got to this massive vineyard we all grabbed our lunch, and were told to let the Holy Spirit lead us wherever He wanted us to dwell. I was led down a path near an old pool and sat in the warm sun by some beautiful flowers of all different colors. I began my time by eating my lunch and reading God’s word. I got distracted so easily so during this time every time I heard or thought of something not related to God I would verbally speak “No more distractions” or “It’s all about God right now”.

 As I read I saw some stickers on my sisters water bottle. One said, The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me. (Psalm 138:8)  I really started to think about my identity and what God thinks about me. So I continued to read some passages from Ephesians, Philippians, and John. I kinda just let the words sink in and hoped God would put all the pieces together. After that I started to pray and looked at the sky. I could start to feel what God wanted me to write in His letter to me from Him. I started to realize that a lot of times I go to other people, my phone, etc. for attention, which is something I crave. I heard God telling me that I am enough and that he will give me all the attention I need. I heard him saying that he has chosen me to travel the world and to enjoy His creation and that he will fulfill me more than anything else.

Another thing I’ve always struggled with is anxiety and I could tell He was starting to free me of my fear of what others think. I felt a sense of peace that I had security in the Lord for all these things. This time in the vineyard was so cool for me, I prayed and watched the clouds and reflected on all of these things, and then went for a walk around and through some of the vineyard. It was a very relaxing and good thing for me.

After we finished our time in the vineyard, we went into town for dinner and then later headed to a prayer night. I tell you these prayer and worship nights are like nothing you’ve ever experienced in the past. They’re the coolest place where you feel free and just get to talk to God. People are impacted in all kinds of ways at these meetings.

Personally what I experienced kinda tied in with the vineyard. These nights begin with worship, and normally I’m the nervous one who doesn’t like to sing because I don’t want others to hear me. But boy did I feel so free from that anxiety. The Holy Spirit spoke to me and I felt so so free. During the prayer time I just felt God blocking out the distractions and again telling me that I am enough, he’ll fulfill me, and he’ll give me the attention I need. After that time I was so happy and had the true Joy of the Lord. This isn’t the kind of happiness you feel at Disney, or with your friends, or even after winning a big sports game. This is happiness that can only come from God. True Joy.

I am finally learning where my true joy and my identity comes from and that’s from God.


Changing the Atmosphere

The spiritual realm is real and powerful. What plays out there will spill over and impact the physical realm we live in in. The student team out with Oceans found this out the first few days serving here in South Africa.

We were asked to bring anointing oil and pray over the children, teachers, buildings and grounds of the Ocean View Care Center. An intense season of spiritual battles has left a cloud of heaviness and discouragement over the work.

This type of spiritual warfare was new to most of the students and yet they flooded the campus with prayers bringing heavens love down as they prayed over each of the children and teachers. It was beautiful to watch and you could sense there was some spiritual break through.

As we had our family time later that night we went around the room discussing the day. Some in the group shared how they felt a heaviness and a spirit of confusion as they prayed in certain rooms. Others shared how they could see a change in the kids attitude after praying over them.

As the team arrived the next day some were again asked to pray over teachers and students who were not present the day before. The spiritual battles intensified as the Holy Spirit began to bring things to light. Strongholds of unforgiveness, control, witchcraft, and other demonic influences from past hurts and pain begin to manifest in physical ways.

The only thing we could do was continue to cry out to God in prayer asking Him to intervene and minister to the deepest darkest places of pain and brokenness only the blood of Jesus could heal. In one particular case the enemy was very present to the point where you wondered if it was time to leave the room. Yet It was such a blessing to look up and see students on their faces before Abba Father doing warfare in the spiritual realm.

The Father heard their prayers and after a huge battle there was a break through and a spirit of shalom filled the classroom and the teacher. One of the students committed “today was like we’re living in the Bible.” The atmosphere had truly changed from heaviness and darkness to a spirit of peace and love that you could tangibly feel.

All of us were being taught about the power of prayer and the gift it is to unleash the Holy Spirit to change the spiritual atmosphere. In Paul’s famous teaching on spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:10-18, he concludes by saying:

“Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit, stay alert and be persistent in your prayers…” (vs. 18).

To honest none of us felt equipped to deal with what we were facing yet as we cried out in prayer the Holy Spirit took charge of the situation and brought the victorious power of Jesus to overcome the enemy.

In the days we are living in we are going to see more spiritual warfare as demonic powers seek to build strong holds to hold the Father’s children in bondage. But Abba has given all His children the gift of prayer, calling out for His presence to work through our weakness to reveal His glory to change the spiritual climate.

Take up Paul’s command to “pray at all times on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit,” and watch Him change the atmosphere.