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In the Heat of the Battle

(Warning – Long update from the heart below. may take some time to read. please do take that time.)

Dearest family and friends,

Its 5:00 am as I write this to you, been up since 3:00 with a heavy heart, feeling the weight of the war in my spirit as well as in my physical body. During our VBS program yesterday, I guess you could say I hit rock bottom and my body gave way. Couldn’t stand up for more than 5 minutes at a time, felt just exhausted and defeated. It has been a good but very hard summer. That is why I am writing you now; I am crying out for prayer and asking you to intercede in a major way for our family and for this war here in Newark that the Great General has seen fit to place us in the middle of.  We have stepped out in a major way and engaged the enemy of God’s Kingdom in direct war this summer and I really believe he is fighting back and trying to discourage us and attack this ministry.  The last six months we have been planning a summer program that would really shake this neighborhood with the gospel message and take us a step further in reaching these kids and broken families. The youth center we have been building is finally ready (after we do carpet this week) to be opened.  Over 9 different youth groups (close to 170 volunteers) were scheduled to be here this summer to run the various programs and do community development and evangelism. 5 Interns were going to come to work under me and help oversee the many activities. The City of Newark has given us the opportunity to lead and develop a summer camp for kids in one of the nearby projects. They even hired pastor Walter, one of our pastors, to run it.  Plans were in place to attack the evil of this community in a way (since I have been here at least) it hasn’t been done. It seems the evil one has really fought back and we have felt it this summer more than ever. 3 of the 5 interns fell through, two within the last 3 weeks when I really needed the help the most.  One of the teams (who were going to be here this past week) had to drop out.  Kimberly nearly went into pre-labor and we had a scare, Pastor Walter hurt his back and leg and can barely walk, I have not been able to shake this sickness and soar throat for the last 3 weeks. Financial obstacles arose in many unforeseen ways, our house almost caught fire, I almost got shot, Pastor Walter’s car broke down and got nailed by a hit and run, we had to let our Brazilian pastor go and are without a pastor for our Brazilian ministry. Yesterday our 20-month son Daniel Josiah tested positive for tuberculosis and now there is a whole mess to deal with, 9 months of medication going into his little body.  Our youth development program we have been planning and developing all this year is starting in October and we feel that the enemy doesn’t want that to happen. I can’t help but feel discouraged as I write this, but at the same time encouraged to know that the army of God will not be silent despite the battle wounds and intense warfare. In my heart of hearts I knew this day would come. A day when this church that had been dead for so long is finally realized as a genuine threat to the spiritual darkness that looms over this city. Of course we are going to be attacked!!! Knowing this truth doesn’t make things better, although it is good to know we must be making a difference. It is a grim feeling knowing that you have been spotted on the enemy radar and now his forces are coming against you, wave after wave. Things aren’t going to get easier until they get worse. There is a huge evil that needs to be conquered in the name of Jesus and that evil has turned its eye on us and will not relent till one of us is destroyed or forced to retreat. The war is on… one side or the other will give way. Either we retreat or we fight. It is that simple. Yet so hard. Why does faith have to be that way? I ask myself that as I write you. Why me God? Why do you have me here? Is it just to get beat up or to lead a battle charge to victory? How can there be victory?  Our army seems so small. Our resources seem so scarce. Our reinforcements seem to keep running away. I read all these stories about Gideon, and Jehosaphat and all these other weak men of faith like myself whom God used to lead their pitiful army to victory. This kingdom war is such a great reversal. The weak army is the one that wins. How can that be? Yet I see that so clearly in the biggest victory ever won. On Cross Jesus faced utter defeat. Total shame, extreme pain, complete and utter physical, emotional, spiritual torment that completely destroyed him. The world sees it as weakness. Where is the victory in the cross? How could such a truth of a man dying on the cross bring victory for the Kingdom of God?  Yesterday with my last ounce of strength we finished off this week’s VBS with an alter call.  We had built a large Styrofoam cross and as music played we challenged the 45 kids sitting in the room to come forward one at a time and take a nail and put it into the cross. The nail represented their sin and this was a sign that they were trusting in Jesus and what he did on the cross to deal with their sin that they couldn’t conquer no matter how hard they tried. As nail after nail went into that cross and as I watched these precious kids whose lives are often a living hell come forward and stand before that cross I couldn’t help but cry as I saw the Holy Spirit moving. Kimberly and some of the other leaders were in the back praying with kids who needed prayer. Looking back and seeing them on their knees crying out to God for strength somehow let me know that this is not in vain. That every single hardship we are going through is worth it if just one of these precious lives could be changed and redirected onto the path of righteousness.

God in His faithfulness always seems to bring the right words to his Children. This text is from 2 Corinthians 6:7-10

7 We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. 8 We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. 9 We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. 10 Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.

I am writing this email to encourage each of you in the wars you are fighting. If you are not fighting, I ask you to join. Join us in this war. We need prayer in a major way right now and I ask you in the name of Jesus to take time today and call out to God on our behalf and for the poor broken city of Newark that has been spiritually, politically, and morally oppressed for the last 4 decades. We love and are so thankful for each of you and praise God that we get the chance to be blessed as you pray. Below is a list of praises and requests. Let us boldly approach the throne of Grace as God’s people and ask our King to give us the victory for His glory. That is what He wants and I see in my heart such a tendency to try and win this war on my own.  I need the power of the cross, and as I stuck my nail in the cross yesterday I had to repent of the many ways I fail to trust in God’s awesome plan of redemption. I had to confess the quickness of my heart to doubt that God is good and that nothing in all creation will separate me, my family and this ministry from His love lavished upon us so freely in Christ.

May we all believe and cherish such promises and outrageous grace all the more today as we struggle with His energy and for His glory in our daily encounters with the evil around us and in us.

For the King and the Kingdom,

The Iverson Family

Praise God for:

-The youth center is opening. By God’s grace and many volunteer hours and material donations a $150,000-$200,000 renovation of the basement of the church building was completed for under $50,000.

-The many teams that have come through and labored in love to help rebuild this broken down wall.

-The countless kids and teens coming into contact with Jesus on a daily basis this summer. It is awesome to watch their lives being touched.

-The Spiritual growth we are seeing in the two boys that live with us.

-That Kimberly’s pregnancy seems to be on track for a full term delivery.

-Our personal support account is at about 70% now of what we need and it looks like we will get our first paycheck (its been a year since that happened) this month. Our board voted to begin giving us a partial stipend until our full support comes in. God has been so faithful in providing for our needs through all of you. He has brought us through this year we are thankful.

Prayer requests

-The next three weeks we are facing some of the biggest challenges. Kimberly has a Kidney infection, Daniel Josiah starts 9 months of TB treatment and the whole family right now has the flu. Ministry becomes very hard to do in times like these. It is hard to have joy when your body aches. Pray for help to come, for God to bring volunteers who can take initiative and lead with strength these next few weeks when we don’t have it. The battle wages on and it is a joy to know that we don’t have to do it. He fights for us and though we know this we forget it so quickly and think it is up to us. Pray that we will trust!

-Pray for the seeds planted in kids hearts to sprout into oaks of righteousness for the display of God’s glory.  If just one life is steered onto the path of righteousness we know the angels are rejoicing. “For the son of man came to seek and to save that which is lost.”

-Pray for God to bring in the funds needed to start our after school program in October and for our computer lab.

-Pray for balance in our lives, for wisdom in when to say “no.” Pray that we will listen to God’s voice in the decisions we make and the ministry we take on. Both of us are very active people who have a heart to help others and we often over commit and usually it is at our expense.  There is a constant flow of people knocking on our door for help and even though we have gotten better at ignoring it, we still don’t guard our family time the way we should. It is a real struggle. Pray for us in that.