Desert Stream is all about change: God’s transforming love poured out into our brokenness, raising up men and women whose sexual and relational wholeness defies gravity. The natural “down drag” of he all is no match for the Resurrection. The Risen Christ calls us into the unknown; we follow Him and emerge fitfully into the new creation. This can be scary! However true and real, wholeness demands that we adventure into uncharted territories. Fear must bow to faith in the journey toward real freedom.
Desert Stream is in the midst of its own adventure. We are journeying into unknown territories. In June of 2005, we shall relocate to Kansas City, Missouri. There we shall partner with Mike Bickle and his Forerunner and International House of Prayer (IHOP) Communities.
This move means change on a variety of fronts.
The time for change is right. I believe that God is repositioning us for the crucial role we are to play in the greater church. We are approaching our 25th year as a ministry. Perhaps I have another 25 years to lead this vital work of cleansing and preparing the bride for her Groom. I want to accomplish ALL He wills for Desert Stream under my leadership.
I need to be broken in order to be raised up for the second half. We as a ministry need this. And these changes are humbling us, disorienting us, causing us to cling to Him. Such dependency is having its perfect work. We as a team are more alive than ever to the cross. And to its fiery wind, the Holy Spirit.
This crosswind calls us to die, to surrender afresh to Him, in order to take up what He desires for us. Let me share with you a little bit about these changes.
God gave me a glimpse into the future during our Living Waters Leadership Conference held at the Vineyard Anaheim, August 2003. We had a rich time together— many nations, the sweet and deep Presence of God uniting us, even our new expansive offices providing much space for meals and prayer. Midway through, God said in His still small voice: “This will be your last Living Waters Conference here.” I dismissed it as inner ear trouble.
A few months later, my son Nick visited Kansas City to attend a conference with Mike Bickle and friends. At the peak of his prodigality, Nick encountered his own “crosswind” in Kansas City and began an amazing conversion. He remains in Missouri to this day, serving as an intercessor in the 24-hour-prayer room, and as a young adult intern. He now studies in the School of Ministry there.
Annette and I were grateful. Nick had found Jesus for himself! Plus, we have always loved Mike and Diane Bickle, and much appreciated their impartation to the Vineyard in the areas of prophecy, intercession and holiness. His sister Tracey Scott and our former head of intercession Ann Armstrong have faithfully served the community there with The River and Living Waters .
We loved to hear from Nick and Tracey about the wonders of round the clock prayer and worship, and of the vast number of young men and women from around the world gathering there to grow in their devotion to Jesus. When we discovered that the prayer room (IHOP) had evolved into a church (the Forerunner Community), we were excited. But personally unmoved.
We visited Nick in June of this year. On the last day we met with Mike and Diane Bickle. My purpose in meeting with them was difficult—I needed to challenge Mike on the need for more focused ministry for the sin and profound brokenness in the hearts of his people. In seeking a deeper walk with Jesus, those gathered still needed to deal forthrightly with their broken humanity! God gave me glimpse of this while there; I saw a vulnerable spot in the community, and I spoke it out in fear and trembling.
Diane and he resonated with the counsel, and urged us for suggestions as to how to remedy the problem. (This is a problem in general for the consumer-driven church in America .) Annette and I stammered out a few possibilities. On the plane ride home, we both knew that God was calling us to be a part of the solution. He was calling us to Kansas City.
His crosswind was sure, the leading of His Spirit apparent to us both. Several things became clear in the first few weeks of our consideration with the staff and Desert Stream Board:
God wants us as a ministry to roll up our sleeves and get dirty once more in local soil, especially with young adults being prepared for full-time ministry. Our offering, in the form of healing/ discipleship groups, seems well suited for the community there. This could authenticate our global vision, while impacting internationals in our midst. (The community there represents many nations.)
God wants us to be wise with our resources. Kansas City is half the cost of living in Orange County, CA. It is at the center of the USA, and could readily become central to nationwide conferences and trainings for Desert Stream. At a fraction of the cost. This corresponds well with Desert Stream’s stepped up commitment to the church in the USA.
God wants us to partner with a community focused on intercession, both for our own covering as a ministry as well as for our growth as intercessors. The urgency of the hour for our prophetic voice will demand more attack, and necessitate more prayer. God has new things in store for us. I do not know what, exactly, except that I know we need to be open to His ways, renewed and unexpected ways that He wants to deliver captives. I have never faced such a battle for the souls of humanity as I have lately—men and women being captivated in droves by the sexual idolatry of the age. I am grateful for what we have learned thus far. I am proud of Desert Stream’s offering to the global church. But we need more. Perhaps this move will help us to behold and take hold of new offerings. His crosswind is always the same, yet ever new.
For the urgency of the hour.
Good possibilities, all of the above. But the crosswind had first to blow upon us as a ministry in order to prepare us. And such a rigorous preparation we have never faced. The first task was to submit to the refinement of the Desert Stream Board of Directors. All saw the good possibilities ahead, but urged me to proceed carefully and slowly, in light of the magnitude of the decision.
At this time, one of our intercessors received a word regarding a heart being hammered by a mallet: it was painful and unrelenting, but the heart became more tender and supple as a result.
I knew that this was a true word, one that foretold a painful journey ahead. The first involved the prospect of leaving the Vineyard movement. This is huge for Annette and me. We have been with the Vineyard since 1979, and at the Vineyard Anaheim for the last ten years. Leaving our particular church home signifies loss for us. Many of our colleagues are Vineyard, their churches the home for our programs. Many bless us in the change; some do not. Nevertheless, we shall always be “Vineyard” at heart, ever grateful for (and reliant upon) the duo streams of worship and compassion that have coursed through our offering to the sexually and relationally broken. In the pain of losing favor with some, I pray that God will expand our vision for the greater body. Perhaps it may also expand the vision of my colleagues who cannot yet see and benefit from the possibilities that lie outside of their denominational grid.
Related to this has been a loss of favor with those who do not like Mike Bickle and his community. He provokes strong opinions. Mike has never shied away from standing in the hard place of imparting prophetic and intercessory ministry throughout the church. Also, the Forerunner community is unique; although a church, it defies standard definition with its large in-house population of intercessors, its multiple short term internships and in short, its evolving identity that revolves around the 24-hour prayer and worship room.
In losing favor with some, I look forward to the gain of growing in the streams of intercession and prophesy that flow freely there; I also pray that we at Desert Stream will contribute significantly to what God wills for this dynamic, still-being-formed community.
Another loss has involved the reality of leaving California, and our families there. Annette and I are native to the golden state. Annette’s relatives live throughout the state; my parents still live in the home in which I grew up. California has been the recipient of many of our ministry efforts, as evinced by the large number of groups there. We shall miss it; I grieve already in preparation for icy winters and humid summers. Without those I love most!
But we do not make decisions based on climate or sentiment. Annette and I tend to make decisions based on the community of God’s choice for us. Perhaps our absence will leave more room for seasoned local leaders to exercise their gifts and callings. It is time for others to arise and assume more weight for California. At the same time, we shall seek to conference there on a regular basis. As visitors! Desert Stream in full shall leave the state, but the fruit of our labor will continue to grow and multiply there.
A greater change involves the Desert Stream staff. Three of our key people, Jonathan Hunter, Cathy Morrill, and Helen Bach will remain in California. This is huge, and painful. As in our move from Los Angeles to Anaheim ten years ago, we lost half of our staff. Our current transition has asked of everyone: “Are you called to go forward with us to Kansas City?” Not all said yes, for different reasons.
This is tough. I could never have foreseen this amount of change and loss. Yet through the tears, clarity of purpose is emerging for the whole staff. I believe that God’s best is in play for all. And I see His hand in making the staff lean and certain for the journey to Kansas City.
Another painful chapter involves the alleged abuses of a former staff person that occurred in the mid nineties. (For legal reasons, I must be vague but I want you to know some of what we have been facing this year.) Several years ago, we settled a civil lawsuit related to these allegations. At the end of 2003, another victim filed a lawsuit against Desert Stream, citing the same perpetrator. Throughout 2004 we have been engaging in a costly and sorrowful legal process. It has been costly because we used up the limited funds available to us through our insurance on the previous allegation; all the monies we have needed for legal counsel and the costs of litigation come from our account, not from insurance proceeds. (We are yet unclear as to the outcome of this case. We have engaged in attempts to settle but discussions are ongoing.)
This lawsuit is sorrowful because we all suffer when one endangers the well being of another. And now because of the disobedience of one, this sorrow reaches all of us. (The perpetrator is long gone from the ministry and has been punished through the legal process.) This has cast a shadow over us, and has been a source of daily dying. Please pray with us that justice will be served. For the abused. For us. God have mercy on us as a ministry!
Since the first case, we have grown and changed considerably to prevent such things from happening in our ministry. nevertheless, this second case must be resolved through the legal process in which we are engaged. May God make us wise for the future, and free to go forward, sober and yet enlightened by these terrible realities.
A heart pummeled indeed. At times, I have not wanted to arise from my bed in the morning. Several words I received brought strange consolation. One was of a heart lacerated, as if whipped, torn in many places. The other was of a pair of feet bruised and bloodied by the length and difficulty of the journey. Both words gave me grace to feel the pain of this year, and in a way, of the 24 years that preceded it.
Though marked by joyful advances, the journey has been costly. Amid the suffering, God gave me a picture of a sword being sharpened and raised. His severe mercy is at work; He is training us through His discipline, so that we might produce a harvest of peace and righteousness. (Heb. 12:11) Through the fire, He is purifying and preparing us for a new season of battle.
Crosswind. Dying to live. Surrendering in order to be raised by the power of Another. On this we base our hope. I believe with all my heart that God’s will is being done through this season of change. Every loss can become gain, if viewed through the cross, and if empowered by His Spirit. Through the winds of the cross, God is preparing us for the new and the more that awaits us in the second half of our journey.
The Desert Stream Board officially approved the move to Kansas City last month. Mike Bickle and his leaders at Forerunner eagerly await us there. Jesus, lead on.