“There is power in the name of Jesus…to break every chain, break every chain, break every chain.”
God spoke to several Ndoto staff members during the first hours of preparation for the Ndoto Secondary Retreat (high school and college students) that the theme of this weekend would be breaking chains. We were excited and expectant but really had no idea what that would look like.
The first day of the retreat was difficult. Our guest speaker was late in arriving due to car trouble, our students didn’t have good attitudes, and the staff and volunteers were largely getting sick. Therefore, we canceled all of our evening events for the first night in order to have a night of prayer and worship. In Kenya, these events usually go all night until around 5am. Ours was not quite that long, but I believe it was the pivotal moment of change at our retreat. We stopped what we were doing and took all the day’s troubles to the Lord. The students worshiped with full hearts and prayed intensely for their friend and brother, Isaac, who has been battling serious sarcoma cancer for nearly two years. Isaac just finished radiation treatment in Nairobi but couldn’t come to the retreat because he was in so much pain. The Ndoto students poured out their hearts to God for healing. They prayed, and God showed up.
The next two days were beyond powerful for our students. Everyone actively participated in every game, every session of worship, and intentionally got to know one another. Pastor Mesh, a pastor of the Africa Gospel Church, and a seasoned Ndoto speaker, brought us the word of God. He taught the students about relationships from the story of Ammon and Tamar. Our students have been hungry to learn about relationships and talk about the issues of their culture and generation that for so long have been silenced. We talked about what love really looks like, how sin is destructive, and how to walk in purity in relationships. The students were attentive to every word.
There was one student in particular who was heavy on our hearts. She was recently involved in a very traumatic event that has left her shut down and terrified. She has not wanted to go to school or come visit the Ndoto office. We have uncovered deep pain and serious sin that she has been dealing with. We did not even expect her to come to the retreat, but to our surprise, she was on the bus. She came, was open to learn, talked to many people, smiled, laughed, and listened intently to the sermons.
The last day, Pastor Mesh had the worship leaders sing a song from Jesus Culture called “Break Every Chain.” We sang the chorus again and again, and it became our prayer over them. “There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain.” Those are the only words we sang for 30 minutes. It became the cry of my heart to the Lord that He would break every chain that binds our students and keeps them from the Lord. Pastor Mesh created space up front for students to come, kneel, and receive prayer.
Students flooded the altar and were on their faces, some weeping before the Lord. Pastor Mesh recruited all of our staff and volunteers to pray over students. I noticed that this particular young lady was one of the first to the front. She was broken and sobbing on the floor. She poured out her pain, and my heart was overwhelmed. I just placed my hand on her head and began singing directly over her, begging the Lord to break every chain in her heart. As many more students came forward, I was blown away. The Lord was drawing them. There were so many hurts in that room, and so many chains that the enemy has used to bind our students, and God was releasing them, one by one.
We didn’t let the students go back to their seats until they were prayed over. Even when we released them, they didn’t want to get up. They were just basking in the presence of God and letting His love wash over them. We saw students confess suicidal thoughts, prostitution, anger, alcoholism, pornography addiction, loneliness, doubt, and abuse. The weight that we saw lifted from some of these students, and their desire to walk in freedom no matter how hard, was awe-inspiring.
Then, Pastor Mesh gave an invitation for anyone who wanted to receive Christ as his/her Savior, and, before my eyes, this sweet young lady who I had prayed over so fiercely, stood up in front of her peers. We were able to talk about salvation and pray together. Hearing her confess her sin and receive the free gift of grace and love of Jesus was a moment in my life I will never forget. Here was this girl, whom I had thought we might have lost. I truly was broken over the situation and was unsure how we could reach her or get her back. As I was completely trying to fix the situation in my finite mind, the Lord showed me that He cares about her more than I ever could and that, regardless of what I tried to do, He could save her in just one moment. Jesus brought her to the retreat, broke the chains of sin that bound her, and brought her into a relationship with Him. He loves her so much that He gave himself for her. And on Saturday, the day before Easter, she began a relationship with her Savior.
There are many stories like this one of students who are so broken and so bruised that we weren’t sure they would ever be set free. We had 4 secondary students give their lives to Jesus during this retreat, and we saw students receive healing and freedom from strongholds that have ruled their lives for years. We also saw gratitude, grace, and a unity among our students that has been missing. Easter morning, as we gathered for church, we sang that song again, but that day, it had a different meaning. We were praising God because He had broken chains the day before. He is continuing to work and move in the lives of our students and staff, and this April 2014 retreat will be one that we will not soon forget.