I happen to be an American who loves Georgia and its wonderful people.
On May 8th 2019 we were in a car with Pastor Mamuka from Word of Life Tbilisi and the regional director of the Word of Life Churches, heading north to Gori after a three-day conference with Evangelist Missionary David Hogan in Tbilisi. I was glad to be going out to a less urban environment into an environment where I knew we would have more interaction with the Georgian people and individual churches. There was a tremendous peace upon me while sitting in the back of car and listening to Pastor Steve try and share in English with Pastor Momuka. The day was incredibly bright and the green hills of the Georgian countryside reminded me of a time the earth was pristine and I was thinking about the New Heaven and the New earth. Maranatha Lord Jesus!
While looking west towards a line of hills, God’s Spirit moved inside me and asked “Are you ready to follow me wherever I send you?” I felt a sense of peace and a supernatural kindness of God at the same time this occurred which was awesome. It was yet another one of God’s supernatural moments which have been occurring since 2015 when God woke me up to the reality of His Holy Spirit in a deeper and more intimate way. It was also a little surprising as we were already on mission to have God saying this now. I’ve gotten a lot better as I’ve gotten older at not resisting the Holy Spirit. I assumed this spiritual impression and peace was God encouraging me and confirming my work over the past year particularly in international missions. I was having an accelerated and incredible time of growth travelling with my mentor Pastor Steve Shank and getting thrown into some hair-raising situations that brought the supernatural adrenaline rush! Now I realize when I say that it sounds a little self-serving, but it’s not. I was having fun serving the Lord. The joy was truly unspeakable! I can attest God has truly been faithful to give me the “desires of my heart” (Psalm 37:4). I consider myself abundantly blessed!
So with my spiritual “pat on the back” from God while I was sitting there in God’s peaceful presence, not two minutes later, Pastor Mamuka’s phone rang. It was Bishop Natasha who was responsible for linking up Pastor Steve with the Republic of Georgia Word of Life Churches originally in 2012. She was asking if Pastor Steve and I would be willing to separate from each other and go to different locations that day in the Gori area as there were many people who needed prayer. Now I got to admit up to this point on our trip I was having a relaxing time simply supporting Pastor Steve and praying for folks at the end of the services as we travelled. I had already had several intense prayer encounters where the Holy Spirit had delivered incredible freedom to people I had the privilege to pray with. But when I heard this message, I knew immediately why less than 2 minutes prior God’s presence had descended on me in the back of the car. When Pastor Mamuka asked if we would be willing to separate, I answered “absolutely.”
We pulled into the Gori area in a town called Qareli and met the coordinating Pastor in the area Pastor Mirza. I already knew something of this man’s testimony and I had been specifically praying for him and how I could particularly do what God intended me do weeks before we arrived so it felt like meeting a family member. After we rested, we discussed the day’s outreach plan. Mirza said “there is a town far away and a couple of locations here in Qareli.” What we didn’t know, was that Pastor Mirza had been working for some time preparing house churches in new locations and had planned on our team having the privilege of bringing the message of the Gospel at the initial meetings of these churches! That’s how our God works, planning all things ahead bringing together the members of the family of His church on earth, His Son’s Bride to do the work of the Kingdom. When I heard this, I knew in my spirit I would be going to the remote location. While the group consulted who would go where there was no feeling of conviction so I said “I’ll go to the far village.” Besides if anything delayed us that way Pastor Steve wouldn’t be late for his planned message that night in the Qareli church?
I was introduced to my translator Teona and her uncle Madab who would be driving us to a village south of Gori, Stalin’s birthplace. As we drove, I got to know the two of them and that the house we were going to had one believer the wife, and she Madab and the crew had been doing outreach to their neighbors to try and get them to come to the church. After some time of driving Madab pointed out we were overlooking Gori. As we got off the highway and started making our way down the winding road to get there I prayed, “The legacy of this town does not belong to Stalin’s memory, Jesus Is King, and today people in this area will be brought into the Kingdom.” I remained in prayer as we drove through the city. About 10 minutes later we arrived in Qvakhvreli a small town with low houses and trees. As we turned down an alley to access the home we would hold the first church service in, we needed to go to the end of the street and turn around. At the very end of the street was a man in his mid-30’s sitting out front with his son under a tree, we passed by him very slowly and he was looking at us. Our intent was to use the end of the street to turn around, which meant we would pass him again. At this point the Spirit said “invite him to church!” As we drove by the second time, I said in English “come to church!” My translator translated and he smiled and nodded his head “no way!” I smiled too and as we got out of the car and parked, I walked over to him and introduced myself. His name was Vanuli and his son’s name was Lucas. I complimented him on his strawberry patch and we smiled and parted ways Teona, Madab and I walking down the street to the new house church.
As we entered the home, we were greeted warmly by the wife of the home who had made preparations for us. She was a new believer and it was obviously very exciting to have a guest in her home on the first day of their house church and this one being an American. The word was put out and, in a few minutes, more people came to the first service which included her husband, a couple of older women, two children elementary school age and a man in his early 50’s whom I could see was heavily oppressed from the intensity coming off him. We made a circle of all the available chairs and at the moment we were sitting down to begin, Vanuli and Lucas walked in! “Well I thought, “Thank you Holy Spirit You are in control!” I had decided to use the story of Nicodemus and empty religion as the jumping off point that day for the Gospel. As we started, I thanked these them all for the privilege of being able to share my time with them and said I wanted to be somewhat transparent about myself and how I found Jesus. I shared about my experience in the Catholic faith and only being introduced to who Jesus was but never really knowing him. While I sharing people were listening and the older gentleman in his 50’s looked very uncomfortable. I could see he was having a spiritual struggle. Teona read the story of Nicodemus meeting Jesus, which allowed me to share the difference between knowing about religious things and being born again. Vanuli was watching and his eyes were taking in every word. We finished with John chapter 7 sharing about the Holy Spirit’s desire to live within us and through us and I gave simple invitation to accept Christ I waited for about three seconds…
Everyone’s hand went up. Make a note if we get out of the way and preach the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand accurately, God is quite capable of doing the work in the heart.
For the next 20 minutes we took prayers and even prayed over a shirt one the husband of our host brought for a friend of his he wanted healing for based on Acts chapter 19. The husband now a new believer immediately understood the power of the Gospel enough to do this shortly after getting saved! I love how our awesome God works! We prayed over health in Jesus name, addictions in Jesus name, and for courage in Jesus name. The man in his 50’s wo now had accepted Jesus who was formally hostile was now relaxed. He came up for prayer and asked if he could be freed from alcohol. I treat such addictions when someone has lost the ability to control whatever masters them as demonically empowered. So, we treated this as a deliverance. As soon as the spirit was told to leave the man, his eyes fluttered, he began to waver and for a moment I was afraid he might fall over. Thank you, Jesus, he didn’t! He did remark he felt something “had changed” which is very common in deliverance encounters. Tis was unremarkable I have had deliverances turn into a bit of circus with demons manifesting and the situation being quite awkward. God was very graceful to this little new church and the Holy Spirit brought freedom and joy!
After a time of after service fellowship offered by our host, we prepared to leave and said our good byes to these new believers. On the way back in the car, I was filled with immense joy and peace over my new family members in the Kingdom and I had not noticed how profoundly moved my translator Teona was. As I sat in the car mesmerized at how good God was, Teona was in His Presence, she had tears on her face which surprised me at first. She shared that that was her first time translating and for most of the message she was nervous about getting something wrong and the atmosphere being reduced due to a translation mistake. I smiled and assured her she did great and she agreed she had and then she shared how amazed she was that God has used her so easily to bring this group of believers into a relationship with Christ. I agreed and we laughed considering the amount of work that had occurred with Pastor Mirza and Madab who directly were reaching out to the community in preparation for this day. It takes the family of God to bring about the expansion of the Kingdom of God. It always does. Solo soldiers in Christ rarely foster Spirit empowered impact. However, they are often beset with “spirits of division” working through them. The reason God uses the many members of the body to accomplish the work of the body, (Romans 12:4-6) is to remind us we are a family. Families care for one another; they sacrificially give for one another and are reminded to “consider each other more important than themselves.” Romans 12:10.
Times are frustrating again in Georgia, I want to encourage them, Jesus is King over Georgia, not the oppressors, not political systems. Georgia remember this, your history is rich with this truth! Far richer than most countries.
The day would get even more amazing as God’s Spirit took control and we followed. We left this service praising the Lord for His work in the new house church in Qvakhvreli. I could not help but share in the happiness of the wife who hosted us and who had been praying for her husband’s salvation. Now he was in the Kingdom with her! I love especially couples in Christ. They are meant more than anything to reflect Christ love and His Church on earth! We had some rest time at our host home Manana, before service that night. We also picked up some history of the church and how through the love and devotion Pastor Mamuka, how the Gospel had originally reached out to this area. We heard how the ministry around Gori had been passed on to Pastor Mirza, and how he faithfully ministered to Manana and her family for months, often walking to her home in the snow to bring the message of the Gospel to her. God revealed again how He had been working through the hands of His people to establish His church in this area and how the many members had over time, and through obedience, had seen the fruit. Fruit’s often missing in Christian churches these days. If we don’t see something immediate, or spectacular we don’t believe. We can find ourselves challenging Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit like the religious rulers for signs of credibility. Learning to hear the Spirit of God is not accomplished by formula, or by reading books about it. There’s no shortcut for us individually “asking, seeking, and knocking” (Luke 11:9-13).
Around 6:30 that evening, the service started in Qareli. There was a powerful presence of the Holy Spirit in the service this night from the beginning of worship straight into the message. Pastor Steve kept on with the message of “being ready.” It wasn’t long into the service when over my shoulder to the left I knew something was occurring in the spirit so I shifted in my seat to look around and saw a man (Darian) staring at me with a look of horror on his face. I have seen this before. The look is the demonic that knows they are close to being confronted. You also need to appreciate this occurred as joyful powerful worship was going on all around us and how out of place this man looked in the spiritual realm. What was occurring in the man due to the demonic presence of his life was an overwhelming sense of fear. Several times I looked back over the course of the service. He was also sitting next to a man who had a demon as well. On this man however, his eyes were darting back and forth from side to side rapidly. No matter how long I looked at the second man he (the demon) would not raise its eyes to meet mine, no wonder these two men were sitting together as demons like to gather or “congregate” Keep in mind Matthew tells us there were “two” demoniacs from Gadarene.
After Pastor Steve had delivered the message there was a continued time of worship. Pastor Steve and I and some of the believers from the church stood up front at this time and offered to pray with anyone who wanted prayer. People came forward for many issues and in need of healing. God had already let me know I would be praying over Darian and it would happen one way or another so I was not surprised when God came through and Darian came before me for personal prayer. I said “hello” and that I was glad he came up for prayer, I shared what I believed the Lord told me was oppressing him, and he confirmed it. This happens repeatedly in deliverance and was reoccurring in our time in Georgia. Every time I shared with permission from the individual, what the Holy Spirit had revealed about their life, the person looked immensely relieved someone knew the torment they were experiencing. Let this be a gentle warning for my charismatic prophetic enthusiasts. If you rattle off 20 things the Holy Spirit is supposedly telling you about someone’s destiny, you’re bound to get something right. Holy Spirit is right 100% of the time. If its not of the Spirit, Let’s not represent it like it is. I asked Darian if he had been baptized in the Holy Spirit, and if he had previously spoken in his tongue language. He said “yes,” but not for some time. I explained this was common when oppressed by what was demonic, to which he shook his head in agreement. I instructed him what we were going to do, asking Teona not to translate the words spoken against the demon. The prayer was short and the three of us, myself, Teona and Darian thanked God for the deliverance. We had agreed we would pray and thank God until Darian was able to express his thanks in the language of tongues. The prayer only took about a minute and at the point he started speaking in tongues a big smile broke out on his face and he said loudly “I’m Free! I’m Free!” What was demonic had been shaken off. Darian had a return of the joy we are gifted to be able to carry. Sometimes we lose this, and through isolation and oppression, its robbed of us. Sometimes we never find this joy as it is associated with a vibrant understanding and relationship to the Holy Spirit. This explains why so many of us stay stuck in our faith, defeated, an ineffective in reaching others for Christ. Kingdom work requires we get used to the spontaneous nature of working with God’s Spirit and stepping out of our comfort zone. The longer I live the more I am confronted at how this confrontation with my own comfort zone never goes away for the believer.
“Jesus help us as we need to hear you Holy Spirit. We need to be sensitive to your desire to own us and work through us.” Give us supernatural courage to face circumstances that seem impossible and reach those you don’t know you and bless those who don’t know your joy.”
M.S. Counseling M.C.M. Pastoral Counseling
JP Grier is the founder and writer at SentinelforChrist.com – A network of Christians helping each other to press deeper in Christ.