Fiji is coming up!!

Hello!

Firstly, I apologise for the delay in sending out this update. The reason for this is that the mission trip to Fiji is coming up soon, and I thought it best to send out a more detailed newsletter after the trip.

Yes, I’m going to Fiji in 8 DAYS! I’m so excited!

In this e-mail, I’m going to give you a short version of what we’re expecting to do in Fiji, and I’m planning to write a more detailed newsletter in a few weeks about what we will have experienced in Fiji (and also cover the last 2 months of experiences in Australia and at Bible college).

Here’s the short description:
Planetshakers Church is sending out around 350 missionaries to Fiji (I don’t know the exact number) for two weeks, including most of the Bible college students.
In the first week, there will be different teams heading into different regions to host programmes in schools, hospitals, market places, etc. My team is going to Labasa, which is the most rural area. In the second week, we will all head to the capital city Suva to help at night rallies and concerts.
The campaign is called “Believe Fiji”, and our aim is to change the nation of Fiji! We want to give every person we encounter hope for their future, show them that they are valued and important, and give them a passion to influence their nation. We also believe that God wants to do miracles in the lives of everyone we meet and heal them in body, soul and spirit.
My role will be two-fold: 1) I will assist in the sound production side of things, and 2) I will support my team during in the various programmes by praying for people and believing for miracles in their lives.

Here are a few additional points:

  • The first miracle has already happened! My trip to Fiji is only possible because of the financial support I received from friends and family. So a huge THANK YOU to all those who supported me! (In fact, many if not most of the missionaries would not have been able to come along without other people supporting them.)
  • We will fly on the 27th of August and return on the 7th of September.
  • I would be very grateful for your prayers during these 2 weeks! Thank you for praying for the people of Fiji and for us missionaries.
  • If you want to follow what’s happening on social media, we have a hashtag: #believefiji

Thank you for standing by me on this journey!
I’m happy about every comment and would love to hear how you’re doing. Just hit the comments section and give a shout.

Advertisements

Jonah Surge: Chapter 5

Chapter 5: Guilt

Vatican State, six days ago

The bishop timidly fumbled with his hands, expectant of the upcoming meeting. Just to be sure, he went over the documents once more to see if he had everything. There was no anticipation in him, and inwardly he felt uncomfortable with the fact that the Vatican approved of the practises of this so-called ghost hunter. Orders of the cardinal, he reminded himself, orders of the cardinal.

The door swung open.

With quick, firm footsteps, a somewhat shabby looking man clothed in a black mantle entered the room. “I hear you have news for me, bishop.”

Yes, yes, Mr. Surge, this here comes straight from Cardinal Amato. Another Satanic sect has recently become active. They call themselves Pluto. We’ve traced their origins to Venice. Here, here are your documents, Mr. Surge.”

Jonah took the folder and glanced over the pages.

And by ‘traced’, you mean this man, Sergio Santoro, told you?”

Yes, yes, as you can see, he came to us while he was possessed by a demon, so we exorcised him and afterwards questioned him. He is now a member of the Holy Catholic Church.”

Good, very good, you have won one more soul for the Almighty. Though I wish these pages contained a bit more information on this sect.”

Mr. Santoro was not part of their inner circle, and as I said, they have just recently come onto our radar.”

Naturally. So, I assume the cardinal wants me in Venice?”

No, no, Mr. Surge. We can handle Venice.” A hint of defiance in his voice was audible. “You will go to New York. They have a base there and there are reports of a powerful demon by the name of Melchek who has arisen there.” The bishop pointed at the corresponding pages in the folder. “His host is a man called Leon Bakhoum. You must find him and try to help him, if you can. Oh, and you will also find your flight ticket for tonight in there.”

New York? What are the chances I should finally return there…” Jonah reminisced and wondered what the Lord might be up to, but caught himself before his thoughts drifted off. “… Tell the cardinal that I will go. Thank you for your time and for these documents, Bishop Fontana.”

Fontana watched with wonder and contempt as the ghost hunter left his office.

As Jonah walked towards the check-in at the airport, he couldn’t help but feel a hint of indignation at the Vatican. They still thought they owned him, despite him having repeatedly communicated the nature of their cooperation to the cardinal himself. Jonah wasn’t even a member of the Catholic church. Well, he thought, at least they always provide me with good information. He was thankful for their large library and church database.

Something about this Leon didn’t seem right. A police record was attached to the documents. After checking in and walking to his gate, Jonah studied them. Leon Bakhoum had been arrested multiple times for smuggling and had lived in various countries in Europe, the Middle East, northern Africa, and even once in China. His father was Egyptian, his mother Turkish. Leon’s place of birth caught Jonah’s attention. It couldn’t be… It was here in Italy, the same small town Jonah had been born in!

The documents also contained a police file on Leon’s father, who had been arrested once for brawling under the influence of alcohol. A word caught Jonah’s attention: “stepson”. Apparently, this man wasn’t Leon’s biological father. A fatherhood test from 1992 had yielded this result. The Vatican had thoroughly researched this man, Jonah granted them that. Unfortunately, there was nothing in the documents about Leon’s mother apart from some general information. Leon seemed to have been an only child in a family with a low to moderate income.

In the midst of his reading, Jonah’s phone rang. It was an unknown Italian caller. “Yes?”, Jonah answered.

Mr. Surge, I am pleased to talk with you.”

Who is this?”

You will know soon enough.” For a moment, Jonah was tempted to hang up and put the call down as some kind of spam or prank. But something in the caller’s tone seemed different. “We have had our eyes on you for some time now, Mr. Surge, the famous ghost hunter.” Jonah heard an abrupt giggle. “When we learned that you were coming to New York, we were… not exactly satisfied.”

So you are Pluto.”

You can call us that, yes.”

Well, I don’t know how you got my number, but that won’t stop me from coming after you.”

You misunderstand, Mr. Surge, I don’t intend to stop you. I just want to share some information that might interest you.”

Jonah was silent.

The caller continued: “We know you have been assigned to kill a member of our society by the name of Leon Bakhoum.”

Not kill. Help.”

Oh, please. We know your methods. But before you do that, you might want to know that he is your half-brother. The second child of your father.”

Oh, I see, you’re trying to convince me that I have a personal stake in this, so that I back off. But it won’t work. I know that I don’t have any family left.”

The man at the other end sighed. “We do very thorough background tests on everyone who enters our ranks, Mr. Surge. You can test the evidence yourself. For example, did you notice the hint of red in Bakhoum’s facial hair? Have you ever seen a Turk or Egyptian with red hair? But if he is your father’s son, the Irish blood would explain it. Or did you notice that Bakhoum is taller than any of his alleged parents and grandparents ever were? There is different blood in him.”

It could be anyone’s blood. And how do you know about my father?”

Well, Bakhoum’s physical features pressed us to find out more about his ancestry. So we questioned his mother. She told us that she had known another man while she lived in Italy, a man by the name of Philip Surge, your father. Soon after that, we found out everything about the massacre in Madagascar, the death of your parents and your survival. I don’t want to stop you. On the contrary, Mr. Bakhoum is already waiting for you in New York. He is excited to finally meet you.”

Oh, yeah, well, how can you proo–”, but the mystery man hung up before Jonah could finish. He didn’t believe it. It can’t be. After the incident in Madagascar, he had never had any family. Well… there might be a way to test it, Jonah thought. Jonah went back onto his phone and called Cardinal Amato. If anyone could give him any information on this, it would be him.

Jonah was just about to begin boarding when the cardinal finally called back sixty minutes later. “Jonah, I have your answers”, he began.

Thank you a lot, cardinal. But you better make it quick, because the plane is about to board.”

It is all true. Everything you said.”

Jonah breathed deeply. He couldn’t believe it, even though he had somehow known it, deep inside. But accepting that truth was an entirely different matter, accepting that he still had family, and accepting that this last piece of family had given himself over to darkness.

How did you find out?”, Jonah asked.

Cardinal Amato recounted: “I called the priest of your old hometown. He remembered your family very well. But he especially remembered one rainy evening when your father came to see him for a confession, twenty-nine years ago.” The cardinal sounded a bit uncomfortable. “I am usually not at liberty to share anything spoken within the confessional. But I think these circumstances warrant an exception. Everyone should have a right to know their family history… Anyway, your father came to the priest that night and confessed to the sin of adultery.”

Jonah swallowed heavily.

Amato continued: “It was the last time the priest saw your father. It was a night filled with tears, and your father repented and rededicated his life to God and afterwards changed his life. Your family moved back to Ireland a month later because of what happened. Your father wanted a fresh start away from temptation. He remained in contact with the priest through letters for years after that. Jonah, you should know that your father loved you and your mother dearly. I am certain that he never knew anything about Leon. Your father’s rededication to God eventually lead your family to move to Madagascar as missionaries to help people.”

Yeah, where they were killed after only two years and the entire church was burned down!”, Jonah replied. “That was a huge help to everyone.”

Jonah”, the cardinal replied softly, “your parents did what they believed in and improved the lives of hundreds of people, even outside of their church. That cannot be said of many people. They were aware of the danger of persecution, but still they chose to serve God. Don’t forget, you too have made that exact same decision not very long ago.”

Jonah’s eyes were getting wet as the fire and the cries churned his memories. “I guess… After all these years I still haven’t completely made peace with my past. And now, someone tells me I have a demon-possessed half-brother. I… just don’t know what to do.”

I doubt anyone could get over that kind of past, but you have made exemplary progress. Hold fast to what you have achieved so far! I will pray for you, Jonah, and may God guide you.”

Thank you, cardinal.” He pulled himself together. “I should get going now. The last passengers are already boarding.”

Wait, there is one more thing you should know”, the cardinal said. “Santoro, the person who gave us our information on Pluto, has been killed. And bishop Fontana’s office ransacked.”

How? When did this happen?”, Jonah replied.

About two and a half hours ago. Santoro was shot three times in the chest for betraying his sect. The bishop is safe for now. At least Santoro’s soul was saved before he died.”

They always look on the bright side, don’t they?, Jonah thought.

Pluto know about your mission, so be on your guard”, the cardinal concluded. After they had wished each other luck, Jonah ended the call.

Is everything alright, Sir?”, the lady checking the passports asked.

Fine”, Jonah answered as he boarded the plane.

***

Jonah kept wondering if there might have been another way. A way to set his brother free, to save him, to get to know him. Killing was never easy. In the past, he had always been able to justify it or find some kind of excuse. The greater good, the safety of others, self-defence. That his enemies were bad people or too far gone or that there was not much left of them at all underneath all the darkness they had given themselves to. That he was enforcing God’s will.

But this time it was different. His own brother, his own flesh and blood. Killed. With a short metal pole and a rusted bicycle wheel at the bottom of the Hudson river. He had driven the pole into his brother’s heart with his own hands. Held him in his arms as he breathed his last. Seen the darkness dissipate from his eyes and, for a brief moment, only a few seconds maybe, known what his brother truly looked like – confused, misguided, afraid.

That image flashed through his mind as Jonah lighted another cigarette. The last time he had touched one of those had to be more than three years ago. That also had to be the last time he had been drunk. Jonah glanced at the half empty bottle of Jack next to his armchair. Yeah, he was probably drunk… The smoke that lined the ceiling of the shabby motel room swirled around in strange paths. Holes in the smoke turned into black, abyssal eyes. Slivers became like claws reaching out to Jonah’s mind. Outside, cars driving by sounded like evil growls and chuckles, a wailing siren seemed like a hysterical, demonic laugh.

Were the demons finally out to get him? Were they now going to claim his soul and punish him for his evil deeds? He took another gulp of whiskey. Might as well go down with a blast… But it only made the visions worse. He cowered on the floor, begging the demons to go away.

Minutes later he was clinging to the carpet with his hands, cold sweat dripped from his forehead, and the visions abated. Maybe they weren’t coming to take him after all. Is this the spirit you’ve been given? A spirit of fear?, a voice inside him whispered. Slowly Jonah got back up into the beige and red chequered armchair and buried his face in his hands.

He just wished his life was easier. Or that he would have learned to cope with it better by now, have more character, more confidence, more substance. But he felt like an utter failure. Had he ever been truly worthy of this calling to be Spirit Warrior? His mind returned to his first meeting with his mentor. He had felt inadequate then, and now he couldn’t even save his own brother.

God, why this torture?”, he cried aloud, eyes turning red from tears and smoke.

Then he folded his hands and muttered: “God, I know that You saved me. I know that You have forgiven me. But why am I trapped in this body of sin? Why do I hate what I do, why can’t I do what I want to do? Why this eternal war between good and evil inside of me… ? I know You have redeemed me, but I don’t feel redeemed. I feel like I’m constantly looking for redemption and approval and trying to make things right.”

Jonah thought back to the night his parents died and how he had wanted revenge for so long. How frustrating it was to never be able to get it. How the monks later taught him to let go of revenge, even to forgive his enemies. Twenty-three years later, he was still not completely at peace in his heart.

Suddenly a thought struck him: How did Pluto find out about Madagascar? On the phone, the guy said that they found out about it… Jonah had instinctively assumed that they had just looked at some old newspapers. The burned down church had been all over the news, and a list of the missing was readily available. Jonah himself had been declared dead until the monks had found him. But as far as he could remember, that part had never been in any papers. Either Pluto had access to government documents, had previously conducted thorough research on his personage, or even worse, was somehow connected to the Satanists that had taken his parents’ lives. Jonah remembered the sound of barking and yelling and gunshots from when he had barely escaped the assailants with his life. The grey, hooded figure with demonic eyes pervaded his mind and shivers ran down his spine.

Doubts flared up in Jonah’s mind. What if I’m not cut out for this job? What if this is all just one big mad dream or fantasy? I failed my parents, and now I failed my brother. Not only that, I killed him! I ran that sharpened pole through his heart with my own hands. Couldn’t I have fought him differently? Wouldn’t it have been possible to just wound him or knock him out and then later exorcise the demon Melchek out of him? What if… ?

But in his head Jonah knew that Melchek would have continued fighting, no matter how badly Jonah could have wounded him. And that Leon had hung on to Melchek far too strongly for an exorcism.

Is this the purpose of my life, to feel bad about myself all the time? To feel inadequate, vengeful, and frustrated? To rely on myself more than God? The words of the prophet Jeremiah came to his mind: “Ah, Lord God! surely you have greatly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, You shall have peace, when the sword reaches unto the soul.” A blade was painfully reaching into his own soul right now and he felt betrayed by God because of his life of trials and turmoil. Jonah related to the prophet’s despair at having to preach to a people who wouldn’t listen to him. A prophet who witnessed the fall of the great city of Jerusalem and saw the downfall of his people, despite having spent his entire life warning them.

But there was hope in the book of Jeremiah, hope for an eventual return of the Israelites to the Promised Land.

A ringing motel phone cut through the haze of Jonah’s thoughts. He rose from the armchair and stumbled to the floor. His head hit something hard on the way down. The pain rushing through his synapses was strangely sobering and gave clarity to his brain. Slowly, he made his way to the bed and picked up the phone.

You didn’t answer your mobile, so I had to call the reception to get your number”, Pastor Mindy complained.

What time is it?”, Jonah asked drearily.

It’s three o’clock in the afternoon!”

I… guess I should’ve opened the blinds.”

Are you okay, Jonah? You seem a bit off. I’ve been worried about you after what happened yesterday.”

I’m fine. Just a little… dazed.” He sat down on the bed.

I understand that this must be a hard time for you. Losing family is one of the worst things that can happen, even if it’s a half-brother you hardly knew before. If there’s anything I can do…”

He was my brother”, Jonah said resolutely, then he broke into sobs. “I never imagined it could be so hard to cope with losing someone I’ve only met twice in my life. Despite everything, I loved him.”

I know. Look, I’ll come by later and check on you. Can I bring you anything, some food, coffee… ?”

No, please, there’s no need to come…”

Yes, I think there is. I’m a pastor, don’t forget. I will help you get through this. I’m concerned for you. I’m afraid you’ll, well, maybe it’s a bit of a foolish thought, so I apologise, but… I guess I’m afraid you’ll do something that’s bad for you. I just need to see you.”

Okay, okay. But give me a few hours first.”

Fine. Oh, and I’m going to bring Todd with me. Maybe it sounds strange coming from me rather than you, but that witch Azel, or whatever she is, is still out there, and I saw what she did to that building. We need to find a way to stop her.”

Yeah, Mindy, you’re right.” Jonah took a deep breath, but choked on the smoke. “We need to regroup and come up with a plan.”

As Jonah lied down on the bed, the pain slowly dissipated and was replaced by hope. A hope that it would get better. That despite everything, he had done the right thing. Faces of people he had saved before flashed across his eyes, neighbourhoods that he had freed from demonic oppression, saints that had been strengthened by his ministry, both directly and from behind the scenes. A peaceful melancholy eased him into a light doze.

Adventures in Oz – Newsletter 2

The most frequent argument brought up against God is probably the problem of evil. How can a loving, all-powerful God allow suffering? Albert Einstein believed in an impersonal god or divine force partly because of this problem. Many popular atheists use the problem of evil to refute or reject the notion of God or gods. An answer to the problem of evil is called a “theodicy”. There have been various good theodicies over the centuries, but it is known that none of them are quite satisfactory to the human mind.

As we progressed in our Old Testament lectures at college, we amongst other things came across the book of Job. Job is one of the “weird” books, at first glance it doesn’t seem to quite fit in with the rest of the Bible: 1) It is the only book which is both poetry and coherent narrative throughout the whole book. 2) It is one of the more difficult books to understand, precisely because of this tension of the theodicy. (I have always been especially interested in the “difficult” books!) 3) It contains truths, half-truths, and outright falsehoods. The words of God and most of the words of Job are true, but the speeches of Job’s friends contain many falsehoods. It’s pretty unique to find long passages in the Bible which contain false theology! 4) We have no clue when it was written, although it is usually attributed to the time of the patriarchs (e.g. Abraham).

Essentially, the book tells the story of Job, a righteous and wealthy man. God brags to Satan about Job’s faithfulness to Him, but Satan responds that this is only because God has blessed Job with success and wealth. So God allows Satan to take away Job’s children, servants, cattle, all his possessions, and his health. While Job is struggling with intense physical and emotional pain, his friends come to him and try to reason with him intellectually about what this all means. At the end, God Himself shows up, corrects Job and his friends, and blesses Job with double of what he had before. A couple of things stood out to me during the lecture and my personal reading:

  • God bragged about Job. Maybe God is bragging about you and me as well! Every time we do something right, maybe God is so immensely proud of us that he can’t keep silent.
  • Satan was never in control of Job’s life. Sometimes Christians get so intimidated by the devil. But he was only able to harm Job because God allowed it. Similarly, the devil doesn’t hold any power over our lives.
  • Also, Job was never in control of his own life. Sometimes we get so stuck-up about our achievements, but Job understood that all he had was God’s blessing. He states this beautifully in one of my favourite verses: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). May we have that attitude of never taking anything for granted!
  • It’s okay to question and wrestle with God. Job got to a point where he accused God for even letting him be born.
  • Job’s “friends” tried to reason and argue with him, but it didn’t help him. They should have just kept silent and been there for him. You can’t say anything to make a situation like that better.
  • There is no link between sin and suffering! In the theology of Job’s friends, suffering was God’s punishment for sin. But Job hadn’t sinned. When God finally showed up, He demonstrated that His ways are too high for human understanding and that we can’t see the big picture, to which Job could only reply: “I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:3).
  • You may be wondering why I’m writing about Job in this newsletter… I think it’s important that we understand that Job experiences really happen. Reality is hard, life is unfair. Blaming and accusing others won’t help, neither will simple advice like “just look on the bright side” or “repent from your sins”. Rather, let’s be there for one another, focus on the good that can come out of bad situations, and trust the one who Himself suffered unspeakably on the cross, has everything under His control and is writing a beautiful story with our lives.

Recap section

Untitled 2qwr

Before, during and after the conference 🙂

Planetshakers Conference 2019: In April, we had a four-day conference in Melbourne Arena! All college students helped with setting up and packing down the stage as well as the different stands for merchandise and promotion. During the conference, we served in different areas, but were also able to attend some of the sessions. Needless to say, it was amazing, the speakers were great, many people gave their lives to Jesus, and countless got healed from all kinds of illnesses. For example, someone from my Urban Life group (= small group from church) was healed from scoliosis and got an x-ray to prove it! Personally, I received new vision and confirmation over my future. One of the speakers said that “God will gather millions to reach one person”. He preached about a new walk with God, and I really felt like I was one of those “one persons”. After the conference, we had a one week mid-semester break. Amongst other things, I used one of the last hot days to go to the beach.

Lectures: What astonishes me most about our lectures is the passion of our lecturers. You can feel that they care about you and that they are teaching out of personal experience. Though the lectures are very educating, I’m challenged to not only gain knowledge but also to apply it practically. We are now approaching the end of the first semester and have gained a good overview of most Old Testament books and central branches of theology. One of the highlights is that I’m beginning to understand the prophetic books of the Bible better, which have usually been gibberish to me so far. At the moment, we have to write lots of assignments, each one between 900-1200 words. The greatest difficulty is to keep them that short (and to hand them in on time)!

Stage setup in the cinema.

Stream: The Production & Lighting Stream is very exciting so far and I’m learning a lot about audio mixing. Usually, we learn by helping with whatever projects currently need to get done. This means that I’m learning things slower than I originally expected, but on the other hand the knowledge is cemented much better. Some highlights were a class on recording with Joth (the main songwriter, recording artist and worship leader at Planetshakers), where we learnt how to properly and quickly record a demo song, and a class on audio mixing with Terence (the production manager), where we learnt the basics of the mixing desk and how to mix each instrument during a church service. I also serve at the North Campus (one of the five church campuses in Melbourne) during two services every Sunday. Because it’s in a cinema, we have to set up and pack down the entire stage and all equipment every time. I have occasionally been able to do simple tasks on the mixing desk as well.

Church Life: During the week, I attend an Urban Life group, where we usually eat together and then discuss a Biblical topic and/or do a social activity. Last time we watched “Furious Love”, a documentary about people bringing God’s love to the darkest places of the world. We also have fortnightly church courses during the week. As a new church member, I attended the course for new people (called “DNA”). The course was just completed last week with an “Encounter Day”, where every person received prayer for areas in their life where they needed freedom and breakthrough. The people that prayed for me (they didn’t know who I was) had some prophetic words for me that completely matched my situation! It was a powerful day of encountering God and being encouraged.

Settling in: After more than three months in Melbourne and at college/ church, I’m beginning to feel at home. I can find my way around the city, am used to the style of praise and worship at church, and our apartment is fully furnished and outfitted.

Job search: Out of all my job applications, only one positive answer came back, namely, a research PhD position at the University of Melbourne in the area of marine geology! However, my application is still being processed and nothing is certain yet. But since it is the only open door (apart from freelancing; not even fast food restaurants or supermarkets want me…), I’m guessing that it may be a sign from God that this is the job for me. It would be a 3-year commitment, so I’m still struggling a bit with the decision.

Surprises and revelations section

  • How quickly an apartment with five guys gets dirty (especially the bathroom).
  • The punctuality of Melbourne’s public transport system. Even Swiss trains could learn something from them.
  • How good it is to be able to speak Swiss German with someone for a change.
  • I didn’t expect to find any Australian food that deserves to fame. But the meat pies here are phenomenal.
  • How difficult it is to create good habits (more below).
  • Peculiarities of the Australian language: “Bulbs” are called “globes”, “there are” is always abbreviated “there’s”, and “I think” is (almost) always “I reckon”.

Creativity section

I’m progressing with my fantasy novel “The Shadow of Vartha”, which is about an elf and a human who must fight against an evil empire. But I’m still at the beginning.

Daily routines section

Successful people try to turn good practises (reading, exercising, etc.) into habits. It’s difficult to make a habit, but once it’s in place, it’s difficult to break a habit. As mentioned in the last newsletter, I significantly reduced the list of things I want to turn into habits. But even with this short list, it’s still difficult!

  • Reading the Bible every morning has been mostly successful, although I’m a few days behind at the moment.
  • Praying every day been less successful. Though I usually pray every day, I don’t allot enough time to it. Lately, God has really been pressing me to spend more time with Him and to draw strength from Him.
  • Exercising every morning has been mostly successful. I’m now using the app “Home Workout”, which has more demanding exercises than the ones I previously put together myself.
  • Reading every evening (in addition to college reading) has not been very successful. I want to try to go to bed earlier so I have more time to read (and so it’s easier to get up in the mornings).

Dangerous animals, weather and fun section

IMG_20190611_114613

This tree next to our balcony sometimes houses bats.

I still haven’t seen any dangerous or poisonous animals. But we sometimes get to see bats in the tree right outside our apartment!

Weather-wise, it’s definitely the beginning of winter. The temperatures are reaching around 15 °C during the day, but it’s colder in the mornings and evenings, and the frequent cold winds and occasional rain showers don’t help. But every time the sun comes out, it suddenly gets pleasantly warm.

A fun experience was watching “Avengers: Endgame” in the cinema with some friends. Less fun was that I had to pay for three tickets because two people didn’t show up. However, I’m not sad about the money, I’m more sad that they didn’t come! Another good and surprising experience was receiving a huge parcel delivered to my door from my family. With anticipation I opened the parcel, and found it was full of food! High-quality, organic, and fresh meat, vegetables, fruits etc. (don’t worry, all products are from Australia, not Switzerland). Now I finally have some healthy nutrition, yay!

IMG-20190604-WA0001

Welcome present from my family.

 

Conclusion:

I’m feeling more and more at home, getting to know the people and culture better, learning a lot about God, and doing well with college assignments. However, I still have some struggles, like finances, finding a job, or working on the routines.

Prayer requests

If you’re a praying person, I’d much appreciate prayer in the following areas:

  • Growing in my personal relationship with God and learning all I can in the lectures and the stream
  • Clarity and confidence for the job decision, fast processing of my PhD application
  • Continued adjusting, settling in and connecting with people
  • Discipline and progress in writing, music and daily routines
  • Finances for the Fiji mission trip and the second college semester

Financial section

Firstly, thank you for all the support since my last newsletter! Due to donations and some own savings, I have been able to pay rent and simple living expenses so far. However, not all future expenses are covered yet. I should be able to pay the rent for the next two months (560 AUD/ 390 CHF per month). If I get the PhD position, I can probably also pay for the second college semester (2’750 AUD/ 1’900 CHF remaining). What still isn’t covered:

  • 2’900 AUD for the mission trip to Fiji in August (= 2’000 CHF)
  • Possible unexpected expenses

If you want to support me, here are the bank details:

IBAN: CH22 0900 0000 3039 1976 2
Recipient: Efraim Hall
BIC/ SWIFT: POFICHBEXXX
Bank: PostFinance Ltd, Mingerstrasse 20, 3030 Bern, Switzerland

Why support me? I’m amazed by how much emphasis Planetshakers Church places on the principle that “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Honestly, at first I was even a little bit offended. I’ve always struggled with giving money, not because I love money, but because of the insecurity of not having enough left for myself! When I wrote the last newsletter, I struggled so much with asking for money that I actually delayed sending it for a few days. I’m struggling right now too. If you give towards my Fiji trip, you will bless me so I can bless others. We will go to hospitals, schools, prisons, churches, and the streets to spread the gospel and love of Jesus. I’ve heard about so many miracles from last year, even blind eyes and deaf ears being healed, and I would love to go and pray for people and see miracles like that happen. But if giving is better than receiving, that means you will be even more blessed!

Devotional on God’s Omnipresence

Introduction

Some people make a lot of effort to travel to holy places. Muslims pilgrim to Mecca at least once during their lifetime; Jews go to the Wailing Wall; Christians travel to cathedrals or Biblical sites in Israel. I once went away for two days and stayed in a small village in the Swiss Jura which has many surviving buildings from the Middle Ages. The town’s patron, Saint Ursicinus, lived an ascetic life in dedication to God in a cave just outside the village. With great reverence I went to that cave to pray thereand indeed God spoke to me in that place. But do we really need designated holy places? Isn’t God everywhere?

Out of the fouromni” attributes of God omnipotence (all-powerful), omniscience (all-knowing), omnipresence (all-present), and omnibenevolence (perfectly good) – omnipresence is in my experience the one Christians talk about least. But it is by no means less essential!

 

The Uniqueness of Psalm 139

Psalm 139 is unique in its clear description of God’s omnipresence. In fact, God’s presence in the Old Testament is usually designated to specific places (e.g. the tabernacle, the temple, the burning bush). This has even led some to attribute psalm 139 to Vedic pantheistic influences. However, as pointed out in a study by Edward Young, this view is untenable when the contexts of similar Vedic scriptures are compared to Psalm 139.[1]

Psalm 139 is unique in that it speaks of God’s immensity and yet is so personal: I can never escape from Him, He will guide me and support me. The earth is filled with God’s glory (Isaiah 6:3), but neither earth nor heaven can contain Him (2. Chronicles 6:18). In the words of Kevin Conner: “He fills all things, but in His immensity […] is not limited to or by space.”[2] At the same time, God is intimately present within us (Isaiah 57:15, 1. Corinthians 6:19). He answers when we feel forsaken (Psalm 22:1+21), even in our darkest moments (Jonah 2:6).

 

The Importance of Omnipresence

God does reveal Himself in special places for specific purposes. Man needs these special revelations because he suppresses the obvious (Romans 1:18-20).[1] But God’s omnipresence is the inescapable conclusion we must draw from the messages of creation and the Bible. For us who live in the new covenant made possible through Jesus, this means that God is always accessible.

God is with us whether we are in good or bad places, symbolised by “heaven” and “the grave” in Psalm 139:8. There are three possible meanings for the Hebrew word translated as grave”: physically underground, the realm of the dead, or the place of eternal damnation.[3] Even in hell, God’s presence is there! Some say that this means His anger is present, in the form of a tormenting fire (Rev. 14:10).[3] C. S. Lewis on the other hand likens hell to a place that is frequented by a bus to heaven, symbolic of God’s grace, but most refuse to take the bus because they are trapped in their own cycles of sin and egoism.[4]

God is with us whether we are in the wrong or in the right place. Personally, I sometimes doubt whether I’m in the right place, whether I’m fulfilling God’s calling on my life. It is really encouraging to know that God can be experienced wherever I am!

 

Conclusion

When we become more aware of God’s omnipresence, we grow bolder in coming to Him regardless of how we feel, and we become less insecure about our calling and placement, knowing God is with us. God’s omnipresence inspires awe of God, hatred of sin, and concern for our own holiness.[3] We can say with King David: “lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:24b).

Prayer: God, open my eyes to Your omnipresence. Help me to see You in everything and everyone, because everyone carries Your image. Help me to seek you no matter where I stand in life. Thank you that you are never far from me, never more than a cry away. Amen.

 

Sources

[1] Edward J. Young. “The Background of Psalm 139.Bulletin of the Evangelical Theological Society 8, no. 3 (1965): 101-110.

[2] Kevin J. Conner. Foundations of Christian Doctrine. Melbourne: Conner Ministries Inc, 1980.

[3] Matthew Henry. Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible. Hendrickson Publishers, 1991: https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Psa/Psa_139.cfm?a=617008 (April 2019).

[4] C. S. Lewis. The Great Divorce. HarperCollins, 2002.

Jonah Surge: Chapter 4

Chapter 4: The Intrepidity

Cairo, Egypt, July 2007

“This is going to be a big one, Tum.”

“About time we capture a load like this, too. Especially after that fiasco at the airport.”

“You know that wasn’t my fault, Tum. The buyer was an undercover cop!”

“For your sake, Mas, I hope we never run into one again. You cost us Ram and Sef, and a boatload of cash.”

“Are you two gonna keep squabbling or are we gonna focus on the job?”

“Shut your mouth, Leon”, said Tum. “Newbies like you don’t get to be smart.”

“Yeah, yeah, and you only brought me along as replacement until you find better guys, I’ve heard it all before. And that it’s gonna be a ‘big one’, I’ve heard that one before as well. Usually a load of bull.”

“We mean it”, said Mas. “You shut up or we’ll tie you up and leave you for the cops.”

A voice came from the radio: “Get ready, they’re coming”, Babu’s voice sounded over the speaker.

Tum grabbed his rifle, Mas and Leon put on their masks and mounted their motorcycles. A car approached out of the distance, a cloud of desert dust trailing behind it.

Two gunshots. The front tires of the car exploded. It skidded on for almost a hundred metres before heading off the road and into the sand, where it remained. Leon and Mas reached the car, each pulled out his gun, and together they took care of the three men inside the car.

Then Tum got onto his motorcycle and joined the other two. They opened the boot to check out their booty.

At first there was silence.

“I thought it was gonna be cocaine”, said Mas.

“Me too”, Tum replied.

“Look, there’s a description on the outside of this package”, said Leon. “Some kind of medical pills.”

“Haven’t heard of that formula before”, said Mas. “They’re probably experimental.”

“Let’s take them anyway”, said Tum.

Back at the base, Mas looked up the pills on the internet. “Nope, these pills don’t officially exist. But I found this here on the dark web. It’s apparently an experimental drug against HIV. Promises complete healing, cheap and fast.”

“Then why are they so secret?”, Babu asked.

“Either they were stolen before they could be tested”, Tum intervened, “or the tests were unsuccessful.”

“Look at this”, Mas said. He read from the screen. “Possible Side-effects: reduced body functions, strong headaches, pain in various organs, sudden and permanent loss of vital body functions, loss of neural functions, paralysis, ulcers, hormonal disruptions, lymph gland cancer, death … Maybe the tests were not just unsuccessful, maybe they went the wrong way …”

“Our best bet is to sell it to our contacts in Sudan or Libya”, Tum said.

***

Two months later, in a Lebanese prison

In prison, anything can happen, and no one will help you. That’s why Leon was afraid something might have happened to Babu as he was searching for him. He still hated Tum and Mas for running off without them and thus escaping capture. However, he was also lucky. Had they been smuggling drugs instead of medicine, he and Babu might have been sentenced to death back in Egypt. And Leon would likely face a reduced sentence because he was only seventeen years old.

“Babu, where are you?”, Leon shouted.

He heard a muffled cry in the next corridor, and faint voices. Then a shout: “No, Leon, go away!”, followed by loud punch.

Leon ran towards the sounds. “Babu!”

As he reached the corner, immediately a fist landed in his face. “Well, well, now I have both of you together, how nice …” Leon fell to the floor, and looked up at a large, dark-haired, muscular white man. Beside him were three of his friends and a bleeding but conscious Babu. The large man had a knife. “I’ll cut you both up, just like they cut up my brother because of that fake medicine you sold him, you scum!”

Leon rose to his feet. “You’ll need more than weak punches to finish me.”

“You’re still young”, the man replied, “I might offer you to some friends of mine before I’m through with you.” He grinned, and a golden tooth reflected in the blade of his knife.

Without warning, Leon dove for the large man’s legs, and together they hit the ground. Leon punched the man’s stomach, then sprung up and landed his elbow in his face.

Two of the others immediately grabbed Leon’s arms and pulled him up.

Leon kicked one of them in the leg, sending him to the floor.

The third man grabbed Leon’s legs, while the first took hold of both his arm and pinnerd them behind his back. “We got him now, boss!”

The boss rose to his feet and rubbed his nose. “You’re gonna pay for that!”

Behind him, Babu quietly rose to his feet.

“Look out, boss!”

Babu jumped onto the large man from behind and wrapped his right elbow around his neck. The man squealed and choked.

Then henchmen let go of Leon to aid their boss. Leon managed to trip one of them, who landed on his face. The second one took hold of Babu, but before he could do anything, Leon grabbed him and threw him to the floor.

Two of the men attacked Leon, together they exchanged fists and kicks, and finally one was able to land a punch that slammed Leon to the ground.

Their boss, still struggling for air with Babu on his back, sacked to his knees, slowly fainting. A shiny object was lying beside him. The man’s eyes suddenly brightened up as he recognised his knife. He took it and stabbed Babu’s shoulder. At once Babu let go of him, blood spilling out of him. The large man twisted around and thrust the knife straight into Babu’s throat.

“No!”, Leon cried. “No!”

Then he jumped up, punched the large man’s chin, and grabbed the hand holding the knife. In one move, Leon leapt towards the man and slammed his right shoulder into his chest. The knife was forced from his hand. Leon took it and stabbed him in the heart with his own knife.

“You … can’t … kill … me …”, the man muttered and sank to the floor, dead.

At that moment the guards stormed the corridor, took Leon and the three others, and examined the two bodies.

“Put them in solitary for now”, one of the guards said. “Too bad, I had some hope for you”, one of them said to Leon.

***

Slowly regaining strength, Jonah looked up. Firemen were doing their best to put out the burning building. In the distance, the lights of the nightly Manhattan skyline illuminated the Hudson river.

“Ah, there you are, big brother. Why are you so sad?”, a familiar voice rang behind him.

Jonah froze in his place. It … can’t be! Please … not now.

“Oh, how I’ve been waiting for this!”, Melchek said. “To finally see you in your moment of weakness, when you can’t fight back, and when all the best cards are at last up my sleeve. But it’s strange … suddenly I feel a certain generosity. Maybe it’s Melchek dictating it, or perhaps it’s the feeble spirit of Leon somewhere inside of me, but I will once more offer you the chance to join me, and to become as powerful as I am.”

“Dream on”, Jonah replied weakly, still with his back towards him.

Without warning, Melchek knelt beside Jonah and put his arm around him. He spoke quietly, almost soothingly: “Come, Jonah. This is your chance! It pains me to fight you. We could be true brothers, united, standing side by side, doing as we wish in this world. What do you say?”

Jonah closed his eyes and more tears ran down his cheeks. “Leon … I know you’re still in there somewhere. I’ve only known about you for a few days, and yet you have no idea how much I would want to be with you.” The bread and wine he had consumed continued to unfold their regenerative power. Blood pumped through his arteries and veins, his lungs filled with air, his muscles tensed. Then he stood up. “But if that shall happen then you will have to be the one to join me!”

Melchek also rose, his face expressing sadness.

“Just think, Leon”, Jonah continued, and with compassion added: “I can set you free you from this demonic possession. You will feel joy again. We can fight for good together. And you will know a power even greater than you can imagine. And this is a good power, merciful, kind. It will not abuse you!”

Melchek’s face filled with disgust. “You’re speaking of the power of God? Well, I know what that power is like. I’ve tried it. You think he is omnipotent? Just look at all the suffering in the world, why wouldn’t he stop it? You think he wishes you to be free? He only wants you to follow his own will and wishes. That’s not freedom, I call that slavery! The power I possess gives me the ability to do anything I want.”

“God’s power has already beaten yours once, Leon”, Jonah replied. “Do you really want to measure them again? You may have the illusion of freedom, but really you are enslaved, by greed and by pride. The Almighty only wants the best for you.”

“Then why did he take away everything I had?” With that, Melchek sprang at Jonah and punched him to the ground. Then he knelt over him and tried to punch his face, but Jonah deflected with his forearms. But Melchek’s physical strength was greater, and soon Jonah’s arms were sore and his breath almost gone.

Then, suddenly, Melchek squealed and leapt to the side, grabbing his shoulder as if it was burning. Pastor Mindy had come to the rescue. Still weak, she was praying in tongues for the spirit of Melchek to leave the body of Leon.

Melchek was visibly in pain, and for a moment there seemed to be a dark, red-brownish shadow that was forced out of him. But still it clutched onto Leon with long claws.

Leon, as if suddenly awoken from a sleep, looked confused at first, then almost relieved. But then he realised what was happening and screamed: “No, don’t leave me!”

At that moment, the spirit of Melchek began to enter Leon’s body again, and a reddish glow filled his eyes and a menacing grin spread over his face, and the prayers of the pastor were made useless.

Melchek growled loudly and sprang towards Mindy.

At the last moment, Jonah caught Melchek’s leg mid-air, and used the momentum to redirect Melchek’s leap towards a lamppost. The lamppost shuddered and vibrated at the impact.

But Melchek was quickly on his feet again. Melchek tore the lamppost out of the ground, held it over his head, and swung it straight down onto Jonah.

At the last moment, Jonah managed to dodge to the side. “Mindy, Todd!”, he cried. “Get the heck out of here!”

Mindy and Todd ran towards the corner of a building, while Melchek kept lashing out at Jonah with the lamppost, and Jonah barely managed to dodge it.

Two police cars finally arrived at the scene. “Let go of the lamppost and put your hands over your head!” The policemen had immediately noticed the mad man wielding a lamppost as easily as if it was a toothpick. They looked intimidated, but thought themselves safe behind their cars and holding their guns.

“He’s gonna kill those policemen”, Todd said resignedly.

“Wait here”, Pastor Mindy told Todd. She moved away from the building. Lord, Jonah needs your protection, and so do I, she prayed. Then she called out to Melchek, and the authority in her voice was absolute, unrestrained, uncompromised: “Spirit of Melchek, leave that body right now!”

Melchek flinched and froze, but then he slowly turned towards her. “Can’t you see? He doesn’t want me to leave. He is mine, mine!”

He threw the lamppost at Mindy, but it stopped right before it would have hit her, as if there was an invisible wall in front of her.

“Whoa, how did she do that?”, Todd mumbled to himself.

Then a burst of fire surrounded Melchek, coming from Jonah’s palms.

Melchek jumped up and landed atop a parked car, bending down its roof.

Two of the four policemen now pointed their guns towards Jonah. “Both of you, hands over your heads, or we’ll shoot! Right now!”, one of them shouted.

Unperturbed by the presence of the law enforcers, Melchek looked towards Jonah. “You have fire powers?”, he mocked. “I have the power to withstand all elements!” Then he jumped from the car directly at Jonah, took hold of the collar of his mantle, and as if flying, landed them both in the river. A leap of almost fifty metres. Once in the water, Leon dragged Jonah down into the deep.

Jonah struggled, fought, writhed around in Melchek’s steel grip. But there was no way out. The stream was even faster down here and gradually carried them out in the direction of the ocean. He had no air left. The pressure seemed to crush his skull. If his sight went black, he didn’t notice it in the engulfing darkness. Holy Spirit, fill me with your fire …, he thought before he passed out. But either it was extinguished by the waters, or the Holy Spirit didn’t want to grant it to him.

Jonah awoke, lying on dry ground. At least it seemed dry enough. He was covered in mud and dirt. His throat forced water out of his lungs. A white wall of fog as thick as he had never seen before surrounded him. The air was so moist that it almost drowned him again. Slowly, Jonah rose to his knees, then to his feet. His ankle caught on a jagged piece of rusted metal and started to bleed.

“No, this can’t be. What have you done?”, a voice cried out of the snow-white obscurity.

Then Jonah realised. This was the bottom of the river, but somehow all of the water in their proximity had evaporated. The Holy Spirit had granted him fire after all! On the littered floor around him, he could barely make out a few rusted bicycles, many small plastic and metal objects, some tires, even parts of an old, small fishing boat.

A hit out of nowhere caught Jonah unaware and slammed him to the floor. He got up, but another kick out of the mist threw him five metres backwards. His hands landed on a broken glass bottle and began to bleed.

A menacing laugh behind him.

Jonah turned around and caught Melchek’s fist before it reached his bowels. Melchek’s other fist came down hard onto Jonah’s forehead and sent him to the ground again.

Come on Jonah, he told himself, this isn’t the power you’ve been given. He looked in the direction of the sky and suddenly a supernatural courage overcame him. Melchek tried to kick him, but Jonah caught his foot, twisted it, and forced Melchek to the ground.

The fog started to lift as they both got up, and water began to circle their feet. They became aware that the withheld water masses might soon come down to crush them.

Melchek picked up a long metal object from the ground. It looked like a steel reinforcement, but one end was pointy. Jonah picked up a bicycle wheel to defend himself.

Melchek struck at Jonah’s top left, who defended with the wheel. The demon-possessed half-brother swung wide at Jonah’s legs, but Jonah jumped up and back.

Then Melchek approached Jonah with slow steps. “Too bad no one will find your body down here, when I’m done with you.”

“Leon, please don’t do this”, Jonah pleaded.

“What, are you scared of death? I had so much hope for us. But you let me down. And for that I hate you!” Melchek stabbed at his half-brother, but Jonah caught the pole in the spokes of the bicycle wheel. He angled the wheel against the metal pole and, turning sideways while stepping forwards, forced it out of Melchek’s hand – the wheel and pole turned around in Jonah’s hands – and he brought it straight back up, right into Melchek’s heart.

Melchek’s eyes opened wide, startled, in pain. “Brother …”, he mumbled. The red glow disappeared from his eyes.

“Last time I told you that I could not kill you, Leon”, Jonah said quietly, tears running down his eyes, “but that the night would come when I would be forced to.”

Leon’s eyes began to close, and his body sacked into his half-brother’s arms.

“I’m sorry”, he lamented as he held him.

 

This short story concludes Arch 1: Melchek of the Jonah Surge series. Find the complete first arch (four short stories) on this page.

Adventures in Oz – Newsletter 1

I don’t know why some people call Australia “Oz” – but it sounds a bit like an abbreviated version of “Australia”. I can definitely echo the words of Dorothy from the famous movie: “we’re not in Kansas anymore.” I am definitely not in Switzerland anymore.

The arrival of Dorothy and her dog Toto in land of the Wizard of Oz is somewhat similar to the Israelites arriving in the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua. (I’m reading the book of Joshua at the moment.) It is pictured as an almost fantastical land “flowing with milk and honey” that had been promised to their ancestors centuries before. However, the Israelites first had to fight for it and conquer it before they could inhabit it, just like Dorothy and her friends had to fight the wicked witch of the West in order to liberate Oz. Even in our own lives we can see parallels: God wants to lead us into “green pastures” (Psalm 23:2), symbolical of a spiritually fulfilled life where we can rejoice in God’s presence. But that doesn’t mean we’ll get there without a struggle. There is always resistance when we want to get somewhere in life.

For those of you who don’t know what exactly I’m doing, I’m attending the Planetshakers bible college in Melbourne. The reason is on one hand that I want to learn more about theology, because I’ve always been interested in the subject. On the other hand, I feel that God put it on my heart to do it and that he wants to use this time to equip me for the future. That being said, I don’t intend to go as far as a Bachelor degree – I just want to do one year for now (if everything works out according to plan).

Because I have already been to Australia once before, I didn’t have a huge culture shock per se, but it was a different kind of shock to experience Planetshakers church! My first impression was: “these are all crazy people!” I wasn’t (and am still not) used to that type of church service, and I have to admit that I doubted whether this is really the right place for me… The churchgoers jump and dance around, hip-hop songs are performed as part of the worship, and during the sermons the preachers shout from the stage and the people repeatedly rise from their chairs and clap and shout. Everything is much more emotional than anything I know. As a relatively peaceful and reflective Swiss person, this will take some time to adjust to. But I have faith that God will help me overcome my barriers.

So far, I’ve been in Melbourne for about five weeks, and I am mostly settled in.

Recap section

Travels: The flights were long, but went smoothly. I took the first plane of the day at 6 am from Basel to Amsterdam. From Amsterdam I continued to Abu Dhabi and from there to Melbourne, where I arrived after almost 28 hours of travelling at about 7 pm with 1 hour delay. No problems in the planes or at the airports, but unfortunately not many good views from the plane windows. I was graciously picked up from the airport by some other college students.

View from the hotel room.

 

Exploring Melbourne: During the first four and a half days, I was able to stay at a hotel in south Melbourne with my good friend David. We had a wonderful view from the balcony, and it was a really pleasant way to start my stay in Oz. On the first day we explored the city of Melbourne and ate delicious roasted duck in a Chinese restaurant. On the second day, we took a river cruise down the Yarra river to the suburb of Williamstown, where we saw some very nice coffee shops

Beach in Williamstown.

and restaurants and also went to the beach! We also got my new Australian phone number and bank account sorted within the first two days.

 

 

 

The third day was a Sunday. In the morning we visited the Victoria market (if I ever have some spare money left I’ll go there to buy seafood!), and in the afternoon we went to our first Planetshakers church service. It was Vision Sunday, so Pastor Russell shared the prophetic vision of the church for 2019: Breakthrough + glory. He used the metaphor of a sound barrier to illustrate the resistance that will come up when we want to attain supersonic speed/ live a supernatural life. This year, resistance will come, but God has a breakthrough in store on the other side!

Twelve Apostles.

On the next day we went on a tour to the Great Ocean Road. In the morning we saw some very nice small towns and beautiful views of beaches and the southern ocean along the coast, then we went further to spectacular views such as the Twelve Apostles, Shipwreck Coast, Loch Ard Gorge, and the London Bridge. The waves, tides and winds have eroded the sandstone and limestone coast over millennia to form deep gorges in the shore and exposed pillars in the sea, the latter of which have come to be known as the Twelve Apostles. On day five, David had to leave and head back to Switzerland early in the morning. Soon after that I was taken to my new, temporary place to stay, where I met Jason, my new room mate for the next two weeks.

Settling in: The following week was used mainly to settle in to the new location and to do some administrative things. For example, I bought a guitar and a bike, because it was cheaper than bringing my own by plane. Cycling is the cheapest and best means of transport (flexible, can park anywhere, etc.), and I also find that it is the best way to explore new places. The guitar is a brand-new Tanglewood acoustic guitar which would have cost 290$ but they gave it to me for 240$ and included a gig bag. The bike is second-hand and only cost 45$! Although it is old and used, it is still in perfect condition. Including all accessories (helmet, pump, lock, bike tool), I paid about 100$. On the second Sunday, the whole church prayed for the new college students and commissioned us.

Orientation Week: The third week was orientation week! We got a tour of the church/ college building, all the necessary administrative information, a lot of spiritual input, and a chance to get to know each other.

Start of Lectures: About three weeks after I arrived, lectures started, and we are now at the end of week 3 of lectures. The first week was quite relaxed and still very introductory in nature, but we are now slowly getting used to everything. We already had to hand in our first assignments. Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays are free (in order to pursue part-time work). I have sent out a ton of job applications and am hoping to get one soon! Wednesday is Stream Day, when we learn more about the specific area we applied for (e.g. kid’s ministry, Uni ministry, marketing, music, production, dance, etc.). Thursday is our long day of lectures, starting at 9 am and going until 9 pm (with some long breaks). In the first semester, we have four subjects: “Introduction to the Old Testament”, “Christian Worldview” (i.e. Christian doctrine), “Personal & Organisational Leadership”, and “Professional Practise” (i.e. church ministry). On Fridays we have tutorials, and on Sundays we have to serve in two and sit in one church service (of four). Additionally, we have to do a lot of reading and weekly short essays and quizzes.

In the first week of lectures Jason and I were relocated to our definite apartment! It’s the first official Planetshakers College accommodation in the history of Planetshakers, very close to the city centre, 15 minutes walking distance from church, spacious, and (almost) fully furnished due to a large amount of furniture donations and college investments. Even access to a gym, pool and tennis court is included! I’m living here with four other guys, two from Papua New Guinea, one from Indonesia, and one Aussie, and we’re getting along very well with each other. I’m sharing a room with Shem from Papua New Guinea.

Shocks and revelations section

  • First and foremost, I’m not doing the music stream, although I originally planned to! This was huge news to me. Long story short – an important e-mail landed in my spam folder, as a result I had barely any time to practise for the audition, and they have higher standards than I expected – so my audition turned out to not be quite good enough. However, they are graciously allowing me to try the “production & lighting” stream, at least for the first semester, which I’m very excited about and interested in and where I will be able to learn a lot audio mixing and stage setup!

  • For a city famous for it’s “coffee culture”, I actually haven’t had that many good coffees here yet… Well, they have excellent cappuccinos and lattes and chai lattes and such, but as a person who loves pure black coffee, I am a bit disappointed. Nevertheless, I have been to two or three places which truly do serve phenomenal coffee.

  • The amount of Asians and Asian shops and restaurants! Sometimes it seems like there are more Asians than Australians. In the Urban Life group I’ve been to twice (a mix between church small group and student ministry group) I was the only white person. Don’t get me wrong – I love Asians and they really enrich the cultural and culinary ambiance.

  • The no alcohol policy of the college. On the first or second day of orientation, we all had to sign a commitment to not drink alcohol for one year. This is primarily because alcohol is causing so much harm in Australia – it is the number one killer in the country, many Australians have a very unhealthy drinking culture, and most importantly it has severely damaged the Aboriginal societies. In light of these facts, I am more than willing to hold to this commitment.

  • On our mission trip in August, we will go to Fiji! This news was particularly delightful to me, because I’ve been to Fiji before and really love the country, the food, and most of all the people and culture. Planetshakers will go there for 2 weeks to do concerts. They are renting the biggest stadium in Fiji, and considering the low population size, over two weeks it will theoretically be possible for every person in the country to be reached!

Creativity section

As part of this newsletter I want to update you on my creative endeavours.

  • Music: The fact that I didn’t make it into the music stream was a true wake-up call. I haven’t been practising my instrument consistently in the past years and have been stagnating. That’s why I want to commit to practising guitar or singing six days a week from now on.

  • Writing: I also want to use this year to write more. I recently picked up a fantasy novel that I started writing a while ago. It’s called “The Shadow of Vartha”, and it’s about a battle between flawed beings and demon-possessed beings, and about a mysterious relationship between an elf and a human. The novel is still in it’s beginning phase. Apart from that, I’m also going to continue working on my “Jonah Surge” series, which is set in the modern world and is about a warrior who fights against demonic forces.

Daily routine section

Every person needs routines to succeed. Sometimes Christians get the feeling that living a spiritually fulfilled life means being in constant “flow and harmony”, taking each day as it comes, being spontaneous and fluid and fluffy. I used to think that way – it doesn’t work! Since I’ve been in Melbourne, I’ve started putting in place some daily routines. I’ve tried to do this in the past, but always set my goals too high and ended up not doing anything at all. Here are the things I’m trying to do every day at the moment:

  • Read the Bible while eating breakfast. We have to read the whole Bible in one year for college using a devotional Bible reading plan. In addition, I really want to finish my chronological Bible reading plan that I’ve been stuck on for at least the past four years! At the moment I’m doing both of these plans simultaneously, which means reading about five to seven chapters a day.
  • Pray in the morning and evening.
  • Work out each morning. I do short, simple bodyweight exercises which only take about five to ten minutes. On Saturdays I rest and on Sundays I go for a run instead. However, I went to the gym with Shem once instead.
  • Read. Every evening, I try to read before I go to sleep. Not college reading – additional books of any area or genre that interest me.
  • Keep track of my tasks. I use KanbanFlow to keep track of all my ToDo’s and when I want to do them.

Dangerous animals, weather and fun section

Australia is famed for it’s abundance of poisonous and dangerous animals. At the beach in Williamstown in the first week, David and I saw some big blue jellyfish, most of them dead and stranded, but I also saw two live ones in the ocean. According to my Australian flat mate, they are not deadly but the sting really hurts. Other than than, I haven’t seen a single dangerous animal or insect.

Weather-wise, it’s just the end of summer here. When I arrived there were a few days where temperatures reached about 35 °C. Then temperatures dropped to about 20-25 °C in the early afternoon and very cold in the night, and today it’s only 15 °C outside. Characteristic of Melbourne is that the weather can change any time – it can be very cold and very hot in the same day. Melbourne also gets a lot of cold wind, being located at the coast.

An example of a fun thing I got to do was serve in the “Empower” ministry one Sunday at church, where we handed out food to the poor and homeless people. Food is donated by different businesses and supermarkets when it is either past the “best before” date or not nice enough to present (for fruits and vegetables). On the photo, you can see Shem and me serving in the area for cooled goods.

Conclusion:

Not everything in Melbourne or at Planetshakers is perfect, not everything is going as expected, it’s taking long to get used to things, but it is good! I’m being challenged, I’m being moulded, I’m learning new things and making new connections. This is going to be a year of breakthrough and glory. I will be lead to new, green pastures, but there will be resistance on the way.

Prayer requests

If you’re a praying person, I’d appreciate if you could pray for these areas:

  • Getting a good, enjoyable job soon
  • Adjusting well to Planetshakers church, college, and the new apartment
  • Making good new friends
  • Progressing with both writing and music
  • Finances
  • Growing in my personal relationship with God and learning all I can in this year

Financial section

Unfortunately, not all my expenses for year are covered yet. There is still a portion of money I need to pay to the college for rent, the mission trip to Fiji, and the second college semester (Aug. – Dec.). My savings from Switzerland have mostly been used to pay college fees, flights and living costs. I hope that I will be able to cover at least the rent (540 AUD/ 380 CHF per month) and ongoing costs such as food through a part-time job. The following costs remain:

  • 2’900 AUD for the Fiji mission trip in August (= 2’060 CHF)
  • 2’750 AUD for the second college semester (= 1’950 CHF) (this is a bit more than half of the total semester fees)
  • Support to make it through until I get a job and my first salary.

If you want to support me, here are the bank details:

IBAN: CH22 0900 0000 3039 1976 2
Recipient: Efraim Hall
BIC/ SWIFT: POFICHBEXXX
Bank: PostFinance Ltd, Mingerstrasse 20, 3030 Bern, Switzerland

Why support me? To tell the truth, I hate asking for money. But you will enable me help others. Tips will enable me to go on outreach trips to help people in different countries. They will set me free to create creative content in the form of writing and music. They will contribute to education which God wants to use to equip and prepare me.

Jonah Surge: Chapter 3

The Incineration

Near Ambilobe, Madagascar, March 1995

The eight-year old child in the dirt, crying. “Mother! … Father! … ” The night soaking up his tears. The stars looking down indifferently, as if nothing has happened, but some of them covered by the black smoke coming out of the church.

A grey, hooded figure turned around at the crying noise, and John could see the dark chin and black lips of a strong and stern looking man beneath the hood. He cowered below the bush he was hiding behind, desperately hoping that the man wouldn’t see him.

But the strong man came rushing towards him now, so he was forced to make for the nearby precipice, under the cover of bushes and the night. Sliding down the slope on his backside, he soon lost his balance and continued the descent on his tummy. At the bottom, John was weak from sorrow and injury, but he pushed himself up using his arms and spat out leaves and dirt. He quickly threw himself behind a large tree.

Peeking up the slope, John could make out the grey cloak, dimly lit, the hood slowly turning while the man scanned the area with his evil eyes. John was certain that he couldn’t see him, but was afraid that his sobbing might be heard.

Before long, the sound of hooves on dirt. They must be sweeping the area.

With a final dose of courage, the little boy gave up his hiding place and, as fast as he could, dashed towards the Mahavay river which bent around the hill on which the church was located. In the background, he thought he heard voices calling and yelling, and gunshots. But all was a blur, and he didn’t care to hold back his sobs anymore. He cried aloud while running and diving into the rushing and pulling stream.

The cold water engulfed him, flooded his throat and lungs and choked him. He struggled for air but it felt coarse and dry to his mouth. On the shore, he saw mounted horses, dogs, and men with torches, and on the top of the hill the church which was now brightly burning and the fire ascending far into the night sky.

Mother! Father! … They were in there. I don’t know what happened to them … The smell of their ashes is in the air. John mourned loudly so that it was heard in the surrounding jungle, while more and more water entered his lungs and the cries slowly died out as he was swept in the direction of the city.

***

Todd, the former Satanist, and Pastor Mindy were standing outside Jonah’s hospital room and waited for the doctor to come out.

The sixth rib on his left seems to be fractured in two places, but that’s nothing we won’t have fixed up in no time”, the doctor said, exiting the room. “Don’t you worry about him. Now, is there anything else you need?”

No, but thank you very much”, Pastor Mindy answered.

Could I get something to eat, like, eh, a sandwich, or a bar of chocolate or something? I’m really hungry, I’m sorry to say”, Todd asked.

Sure thing, sir. I’ll have the nurse bring you a sandwich. Well then, I’ll leave you two here. Feel free to go in and sit by him, but”, and he put his finger to his lips and spoke quieter: “please be quiet. The patient needs to sleep and rest for the moment.”

With those words the doctor left Mindy and Todd alone, so they went inside the hospital room and sat down at a table near Jonah’s bed. Then Todd told her everything that had happened at the Satanist gathering near Maplewood. “… And then, he, he just shot fire out of his arms, or if he didn’t then I’m seeing things, but I swear to God I’ve been clean, eh, oh sorry, I know you told me not to swear to God anymore, eh, but I swear I’ve been clean for two months straight now. I ain’t seeing things, I know that. Or maybe somebody’s playing tricks on my mind. But I swear I saw him shooting some fire out of his arms. But it didn’t burn the other guys, the fire always went out again right after it hit them. And these guys, I mean, Jonah just swept them away like they were leaves in the fall, if you know what I mean, and they even had knives and stuff … Your friend here was fighting like, eh, I don’t know, a ninja I guess …”

Mindy looked astounded at the tale, but at the same time it was evident that she didn’t believe a word of it, or at least needed some kind of proof.

Anyhow”, Todd continued, “afterwards we noticed someone was buried underground, and we barely managed to free her, and it turned out to be a very skinny looking girl. At last when she was out of the ground, she turned out to be a witch or something. And Jonah was hugging her for whatever reason, which is when she revealed herself and almost squished Jonah half to death, and then she just disappeared.”

And that’s when you brought him to this hospital?”

Yeah, and after that I called you right away.”

Mindy didn’t quite know how to react to this extraordinary story. “Well, I don’t know …”, she started.

He shoots fire out of his arms, man! I don’t know myself yet if I believe it … But if it’s true, then who knows what else he can maybe do?”

I can do a great many other things”, a faint voice from the hospital bed sounded. “But fire is something I am permitted to use only in the utmost of emergencies, and it doesn’t always have the same form.”

Jonah!”, Mindy exclaimed, rose and went to his side immediately. “You’re awake. How are you feeling?”

I think I’m alright”, he answered and tried to sit up, but immediately sacked back down again. “Ow, my side hurts.”

Your rib is fractured in two places. But the doctor said you’ll be fine in no time. But for now you should rest.”

That’s a comfort.”

Pastor Mindy wanted to get to the bottom of Todd’s and Jonah’s nightly dealings, so she wasted no time in asking: “Todd’s been saying some unbelievable things about what happened this night. Would you care to explain what you two were doing?”

Jonah turned his eyes to the ceiling in a contemplative manner. “You shouldn’t have brought Mindy into this, Todd.”

Todd replied: “I … I’m sorry, man. You were unconscious and I, frankly I didn’t know who else to call … I … I thought she was in on the whole thing, I did.”

You thought wrong.”

Well, it’s all the same now”, Mindy interrupted, “I need answers.”

You’re right”, Jonah said and paused for thought. “I owe you some answers. To both of you.” Todd and Mindy looked excited. “But it won’t be easy for you to believe. Well, I’ll try. As you, Mindy, know, I was raised in a Catholic monastery in Madagascar.” Mindy nodded. “But there is something I haven’t told anybody until now: When I turned twenty, a Catholic monk, Lukasz is his name, turned up and confronted me with a destiny which I, unbeknownst to me and even to my Pater and to all of the priests, had been secretly trained to fulfil. Lukasz told me that I was destined to be one of the so-called Spirit Warriors, one of nine worldwide who are specially chosen to fight the realm of darkness, not just by word and prayer – but if need be also by physical force.

Now, I know this sounds strange to you, and I am aware that the Bible forbids killing and that Jesus told us to turn the other cheek rather than to fight back. But hear me out: I am not fighting against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers and spiritual hosts … unless all other options have run out and the spirits and the body have become inseparable from one another. In those cases, sometimes physical weapons must be used.

However, I rejected my responsibility to become a Spirit Warrior and turned away from the faith. You, Mindy, know the rest of that story and how I ended up at your doorstep broken, hopeless, mistreated and alone. I spent three precious years at your Pentecostal church, but after that I received a vision from the Lord and was finally ready and willing to take up my calling. That is when I left you with such short notice and journeyed to Europe, and in Europe I have remained except for these last few days.”

I don’t believe it”, Mindy said in unbelief. She had never imagined that demons could possess people to such an extent that they became inseparable from them. “I have encountered many demon-possessed people, and without exception the demons were all driven out by prayer and fasting.”

Without exception?”, Jonah retorted. “Or were there some you were unable to drive out?”

Mindy looked down.

The vast majority, yes, can be overcome by saints who fast and intercede”, Jonah continued. “But once in a while there are people so power-hungry, so disillusioned, that they don’t want the demons to leave, not even if all the Christians in the world would pray for them. Some of them become as horribly disfigured as the demons themselves as a result of this. But that’s why we, the Spirit Warriors, exist. We try all means possible to free the possessed person, but if that proves unfeasible, we must protect the people around them, by all means necessary.”

That sounds horrible!”, Mindy exclaimed. “And where’s your proof of this anyway, Jonah? I trust you, Jonah, I really do. And I’m trying to now. But I am disappointed that you never told me about this secret calling of yours, even in all those years.”

I’m sorry, Mindy. I had to keep it a secret from everyone but myself and my mentor, because we are a secret order. And while I was with you I didn’t expect that anyone would believe me. Everyone would have thought I was crazy. Even I thought I might be crazy. And I must disappoint you: Unfortunately, I have nothing here with me that would prove my story. You would have to join me on my next investigation and see for yourself. But that would be a very bad idea.”

There’s no way out of this now, Jonah. I care about you. I am not leaving you alone anymore”, Mindy proclaimed.

I’m kinda curious about what the other stuff is that you can do, to be honest”, Todd added shyly. “And I would like to see it again, just to be sure, you know, to be sure I’m not out of my mind. What with the fire and the martial arts and things. I guess you oughta count me in, too.”

Jonah mustered the two of them, then burst out laughing, just to cringe with pain as his rib cage contracted. “A Spirit Warrior, a black preacher and a former Satanist, setting out to fight evil together. Well, I’ll be saved!”

His grin slowly turned to a contemplative smile. “Actually, you could be right. It might not be such a bad idea after all. I have some personal issues on this particular investigation which may cloud my own judgement, and a bit of additional backbone could prove useful.”

It’s settled then”, Todd ventured.

Indeed it is”, Mindy closed.

***

The three of them approached the concert hall on the third night after the hospital. No stars were visible, if because of cloud cover or light pollution Jonah could not tell.

So, what else can you do?”, Todd asked.

I can sometimes see into the spiritual world, if God wants me to”, Jonah replied.

And then you see demons and angels and everything?”

Of course.”

Are you like John Constantine?”

Not exactly. And the spiritual world isn’t like in the comics.”

Ok, and what are the physical weapons you talked about?”, Todd followed up.

Well, I usually have my Sword, but at the moment it is lost. Apart from that, bread and wine – and my golden Book. And any other powers the Holy Spirit chooses to bestow on me.”

I would love to believe you”, Mindy said. “But I can’t. It doesn’t match my theology.”

They slowly closed in on the building and already heard the bass pumping inside. “So, eh, this is that popular meeting place for Satanists during the night”, Todd reminded them. “Chances are high we’ll meet one of them that we fought in that forest, eh, but it just as well might be a fool’s errand.”

Before we go in”, Jonah said, “we need to be clear on one thing: We are here only for Melchek.”

Huh, that’s the evil half-brother you mentioned, right?”, Todd remarked.

Exactly”, Jonah replied. “Everything else is secondary. If we see one of those Satanists, we will only question him. But we won’t rouse any suspicion, and we will do our best to blend in with the people.”

That’s gonna be hard”, Mindy said under her breath as two young and muscular skinheads with tattoos and piercings and leather all over their bodies entered the building.

When the three arrived at the door, the security guard briefly mustered them, but let them pass without further inspection. They had indeed chosen their disguises well enough – lots of black and lots of leather. They paid the entrance fee inside as the music grew ever louder. Mindy already felt pain in her ears, but Todd had no problems in this environment.

Jonah purchased beers for all of them, and they marched into the hall.

Lights flashing. Bodies vibrating. Smoke, heavy rock riffs and the stench of sweat in the air. Beer spilled on the floor. A voice growling like thunder from the stage. Stan Tanasa was written in bold red letters across it – a double anagram of “Satan” as they quickly noticed. According to the poster it was a local band.

The concert hall was about twenty times thirty metres large – a not too spacious local, but more than big enough to host the relatively small circle of habitués. That night, the concert was well attended, yet it was not packed.

At the far end of the hall was the stage, which offered ample space for probably up to ten musicians with their instruments, and the five people currently playing were jumping and running around as if they had a whole football stadium. At the rear end was the bar, and a fan shop which merely consisted of a few tables and a cashier, and of course the entrance. But on the sides of the hall were two narrow aisles with small round tables and circular lounge couches which were attached to the walls. At these tables many dubious figures were seated.

Todd noticed him first. A thin bald man sitting in the rear right corner with two pretty women and a person in a grey, hooded cloak. They couldn’t see the face of the person under the hood, but the bald man was clearly the one who had poured the blood into the other’s cups at the Satanist gathering three nights ago. Todd inconspicuously pointed him out to the others. Jonah noticed that the two women were probably slaves. An instant urge to free them came over him, but he cooled down quickly, not wanting to blow their cover, at least not yet.

The three of them bode their time for about half an hour and acted as if they were enjoying the concert (Todd was the most convincing), until the hooded figure finally departed from the bald man and they saw it no more. After about another fifteen minutes they were confident that the bald man was alone apart from the two women that were sitting with him. They quickly but quietly made their way to the table where he sat.

The bald man noticed them when they were only two or three metres away, and gave a short surprised shriek when he recognised Jonah, but he was already encircled and could not flee.

Jonah, Mindy and Todd sat down with him. “Make a sound and you will regret it”, Jonah warned him.

The man swallowed empty, the memory of his beating at Maplewood still fresh in his mind. “W… W… What do you want from me?”, he asked, shaking.

Firstly, I want you to calm down and not rouse any suspicion. Here, take another sip from your, ah …”, Jonah picked up the glass in front of him and smelled, “vodka martini?”

The man reached for the glass and took a sip.

Now”, Jonah continued, “I already crashed one of your parties. I’d hate to repeat the favour. For now there is only one thing I want to know: Where is your boss?”

The bald man first was still intimidated, but then gradually relaxed, and after a while began to giggle softly.

What’s so funny?”, asked Mindy harshly.

Now the man laughed out loud. “Haha, my boss? You are no match for my boss, hahaha. Not even with your fancy fighting skills or that flamethrower trick of yours. Hahaha, you will all die when you face her!”

Her?”, Jonah inquired, getting angry. “Quit with the games, I know that Melchek is your boss, and that his name formerly was Leon! Tell me where he is.”

Melchek? Oh, yeah he was our boss alright. But she has taken over now. And she will kill the three of you, hahahahaha!”

Why do you hesitate to tell us where she is, if you want her to kill us so badly?”, Mindy pressed on.

At that, the man burst out into full laughter, and his eyes began to tear. He pointed behind them, and then sank his head onto the table, laughing in quiet sobs.

Jonah and his companions immediately rose and turned around. There the cloaked figure from before was standing. From underneath the grey hood two pale red eyes glinted in the flashing light.

Jonah stumbled backwards into the couch. “Who are you?”, he asked weakly.

You know me”, a coarse, resounding, female voice answered from beneath the cloak.

Jonah was suddenly taken back twenty-three years to that day in Madagascar. The strong man was standing before him in his grey, hooded cloak, scanning the area for him with his evil eyes. In the background, a large fire rising into the sky.

Yet this here was different. The figure was smaller, more slender, and the eyes were glowing eerily. “My mission is to drive back …”, Jonah stuttered, but at once a fist catapulted him away across the concert hall.

The music stopped at once. The grey figure was immediately in front of him again and, even though she was shorter than him, she grabbed his chin with one hand and pulled him up into the air.

Everyone was looking at them now. The grey figure looked around herself and said, in a deeper, almost male sounding, thunderous voice to everyone: “This one here is an enemy of us. Any who want a part in his demise may stay and watch!”

Hey, over here”, Todd shouted from behind, and both Todd and Mindy started throwing chairs at her.

The grey figure didn’t budge. “Seize them!”, she shouted. Six of the nearest people took hold of them while others stared and watched. But about half of the people present slowly and quietly made their way to the exit, not wanting any part in this quarrel.

The cloaked figure removed her hood and revealed a once pretty, yet now oddly disfigured and partly decomposed face. It was Azel, the girl they had dug free in the forest near Maplewood. Their help had come weeks too late for her.

It’s her!”, Todd exclaimed to Mindy. “It’s that girl we dug up and who turned into a witch! What do we do? What do we do?”

We can’t do anything now but pray”, Mindy answered, closing her eyes and bowing her head. Todd did the same.

At that moment, Jonah’s fists and eyes filled with fire, and there was a sudden firmness in his voice again: “Azel, my quarrel is not with you. I am here for Melchek. Just tell me where he is and I will leave you be for now.”

The witch grunted and chuckled, but was visibly confused by Jonah’s change of attitude. “So you wish to escape? It is denied!”

Jonah spoke again: “It is you who would have escaped! But I will speak to whoever is still buried underneath your mask. I cannot imagine that the girl you once were still lives, but if she does, I address her now: I offer you the chance to be free from this demon possession once and for all!”

Azel laughed. “You come too late, there is nothing of her left except this rotting body!”

Then it is as I thought”, Jonah said, and with that both his hands and eyes shot fire at Azel, and she was hurled to the other side of the hall. The fire extinguished itself as quickly as it had burst out.

But Azel had magic of her own, and she had followers. From all sides Jonah was attacked by strong, muscular men, and some of them had knives or other weapons.

Two of the band members jumped off the stage to join the fray, but two of them made their way backstage where they hoped to escape. Only the singer remained on stage and grinned menacingly while giving strange comments and vague commands. “Get him!”, he shouted, and then gave a deep growl. “Oh, he’s jumped up to the spotlights. Woo-hoo! Stilton, throw your knife at him!”

Jonah evaded flying knives and broken bottles with a few swift movements, but then Azel shot a red beam of light at him. It caught him unaware and threw him onto the ground.

Strong kicks from the surrounding men almost incapacitated him, but he released fire from his hands and created an impenetrable burning wall around him.

Jonah got up, for a short moment he felt safe, but soon enough a black circle formed in the wall and the witch entered through it unscathed. Jonah drew a golden Book out of his mantle.

The witch stretched out her fingers and shot red light towards him, but it reflected off the golden Book and splayed into all directions.

Azel shouted and reinforced her attack, so that a strong beam of light now came out of each one of her fingertips. “Die!”, she cried out.

Jonah was pressed back and fell down by the sheer force of the red rays. Azel jumped on top of him and pressed her hands against Jonah’s face. His visage was soon covered by the red spells, and he cried out in agony, eventually passing almost into unconsciousness.

Why won’t you die?”, complained Azel.

Fire sprang out of Jonah like a fountain in his defence, but the witch now seemed immune to it. She drew a long, curved, green knife and aimed it at his heart.

With his last bit of strength, Jonah deflected the stab with the Book, and the knife whirled away into the dark.

That’s it”, she cried out. “If magic can’t kill you, the building will!” She pointed at the bar, and bottles came flying towards them and smashed to the ground around them. The alcohol caught fire, and with the help of Jonah’s fire, it quickly spread across the room. Azel aimed more red bolts of light at the walls, pillars and ceiling to destabilise the building. After a while she let go of him and disappeared, but now everything was on fire and Jonah was weak and hurt. Apart from him, only Mindy and Todd were left in the building, and they had been knocked out and tied to one of the tables.

When Jonah came to himself again, he was blackened and weakened from the smoke and heat and barely managed to roll away from some falling wreckage at the last moment. That witch! She used my own power against me!

Then he spotted his two tied-up friends. “Mindy! Todd!”, he cried and crept towards them. He untied them as quickly as he could, fighting against his own advancing drowsiness. He pulled out a small wooden box and flask from inside his mantle. He opened the box, grabbed a small piece of bread and ate it. After unscrewing the lid of the flask, he took a short sip of red wine. “May this bread and this wine give me the strength I need”, he muttered under his breath.

Mustering up his newfound strength, he bore Pastor Mindy under his left arm, and Todd under his right, and standing up he carried them towards the exit. Just as he had passed through the opening, it collapsed behind him.

Jonah sacked to the floor and watched the rest of the building gradually tumble to the ground. Fire engines could be heard in the background. He turned to his friends and forced a piece of bread and a sip of wine down each of their throats. Slowly, their strength returned to them.

Where am I?”, moaned Todd. “What happened?”, groaned Mindy.

But Jonah did not manage to answer. He looked only at the fiery pyre burning high into the night sky, and remembered the burning church and the deaths it had caused. The strong, grey, hooded man crept into his mind again and tormented him. I hope those two slave women managed to get out, Jonah caught himself thinking. He closed his eyes and cried.

Ah, there you are, my brother. Why are you so sad?”, a familiar voice rang behind him.