Only two suitcases to travel ten days and over nine thousand miles. It seemed a bit daunting, especially since one suitcase was totally filled with t-shirts I was carrying to be given as gifts. I had asked my beautiful, adult daughter, Evangeline, if she had any ideas about what I could take to give to fellow mission team members as well as local residents of the African nation of Zambia. Evie, as we affectionately call her, suggested left over t-shirts from a campaign she had participated in last November. Even though the campaign was last fall, it was not the US National Presidential Election but rather the election for the next Chief of the Choctaw Nation of Southeastern Oklahoma.
I immediately felt the idea was wonderful and filled the smaller of my two travel bags with “Chief Gary Batton, Choctaw Nation” t-shirts. I neatly folded no less than fifty t-shirts of all sizes, from a children’s small to an adult’s 2XL. I was set. However, I was not prepared for what the Lord did with those shirts!
Months before I packed my bags and boarded the Lufthansa transatlantic flight, the Holy Spirit had impressed upon me that there would be a “connection” between Zambia, Africa and Atoka, Oklahoma. Really?? I have been a part of an intercessory prayer group in Atoka for over 25 years. The prayer partners and myself have seen the Lord do some very amazing things. However, what we have been continually holding before the throne is an outpouring of the Spirit of God that will revive the Church and transform our communities. When the Holy Spirit impressed upon my heart a divine “connection” to answered prayer between the two localities, I was intrigued.
The first morning of our mission to the community of Kampassa, just outside of the Capitol City of Lusaka, was not to be forgotten. Over 200 children were waiting for the Americans to arrive. We had planned a Vacation Bible School for hungry hearts and we were not disappointed. Team members sprang into action, leading the children in songs that they were familiar with as well as teaching them “Jesus Loves Me” in sign-language. It was a beautiful sight.
As the morning progressed I remembered I had brought a singular “Adult Large” “Gary Batton” t-shirt. I had decided to give it to the mother that had the most children. I had gathered the mother’s together to pray for them and had made a friend with one of the ladies that spoke perfect English. When I asked her who in the community had the most children, I watched as she calculated on her fingers; smiling sheepishly, she said, “That would be me.” “Really,” I replied. “And how many do you have,” I inquired? “Ten.” Was her answer. “Ah,” I thought. “A perfect 10.” I reached for the folded Wal-Mart sack stuck under my arm and took out the much-anticipated prize. It didn’t take her long to adorn herself in her new attire:
The gift came with a request that she would pray for Chief Gary Batton and the Choctaw Nation. She was more than happy to receive the gift even if it had a string attached. A string that I would watch become a strong cord of connection as the week progressed.
The next day, I brought the rest of the children’s t-shirts to the out –of- the- way bush village that had no running water, electricity or sewers. I knew I would start a small riot if I tried to distribute twenty-five shirts among 200 children, so I gave the shirts to my new friend and asked her to give them to her children, grandchildren and extended family. Behold:
The t-shirts truly became the gift that kept on giving. Upon returning to the hotel that evening, I asked Dr. Kirk if I could hand out t-shirts to the team as we had dinner together. He had no problem with the gift giving. As we set around a long fifteen-foot table positioned in the center of the hotel’s restaurant, I stood and held up one of the “Chief Gary Batton” t-shirts. Before I handed them out, I gave the medical team a brief history of Oklahoma. I explained to them how the US Government had removed the eastern tribes to Oklahoma (Land of the Red Man) in the early 1800’s. I tried to communicate the great tragedy of forced removals, the Trail of Tears and every treaty broken between Native Americans and the US Government. I told them that it was my opinion, on a spiritual basis, that it is because of the loss of culture, lands, and original identity, coupled with legislated betrayal that has produced a people group that has significantly higher incidences of diabetes, heart disease, substance abuses and teen suicides. It was at this point that I offered each of them a t-shirt coupled with a request that every time they wear it they lift up a prayer for the renewal, revival and healing of the Choctaw Nation.
Still standing in the middle of the restaurant, I held up an XL “T” and asked who wanted the first one? I was surprised when a man, not associated with our mission team spoke from the corner booth, waving his hand high in the air, he rather shouted, “I do, I want the extra large.” I turned toward the voice behind me to see an expectant, outstretched hand. I walked toward him asking if he was willing not only to take the shirt, but also to pray for the Choctaw Nation. “Yes,” he said. “I will pray.” I gave him the shirt and before I could get back to my table, I was being hailed by another waving hand from another restaurant patron not affiliated with our mission group. I hurried to her booth asking if she wanted a t-shirt and if she would pray. She enthusiastically nodded her head “Yes,” to both question. “Size Large.”
Now, I realized something supernatural was happening. I had not noticed that the whole restaurant and staff were listening to my litany of lessons on the Native Americans and the Lord’s desire to reconcile all things to Himself. I was not paying attention to their faces as I relayed the story of how over 100 American Indian Chiefs met this last year on the Mall in Washington DC. And how the Chiefs had convened to release “forgiveness” to the Government for all the broken treaties and the trail of tears; not for the government’s sake, but for the sake of their own people. Harbored unforgiveness equals self-destruction, whether it is in a tribe or in an individual. We all must forgive to turn the page. Or, perhaps it was that I spoke with such heartfelt passion because my own Cherokee ancestors travelled that tearful trail as well. Or maybe it was just a sovereign move of the Holy Spirit. Regardless, they started lining up to receive their own “Chief Gary Batton” t-shirts with the “Great Seal of the Choctaws” on the reverse side. It was totally amazing. And every shirt taken was received with the promise to pray for the Choctaw Nation.
Before I left for Zambia, Africa, in July of this year… I mused about the Word the Holy Spirit had impressed on my heart. … “there will be a connection to your prayers for healing in Atoka County and your mission to Lusaka. I could never have imagined how a prayer group in “No-Where” Oklahoma connected to a community in “Far-Away” Africa could be brought together to petition the Father to bless both places. But the T-Shirt prayer initiative says it all. I am living in great expectation to see the answered prayers for our county in Southeastern Oklahoma as well as the needs for a water well to be drilled in Kampassa and Living Water for both. Amen.
(Those desiring to help fund the water well please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org )