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I’m writing this article on an airplane somewhere over Newfoundland, on my return from a visit to India.  It’s been a visit of celebration. . .

For those not familiar with my articles, I work in India with families affected by leprosy.  In order to do charitable work in India you are required to have a FCRA license (stands for Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) to bring foreign funding into the country for charitable purposes.  This license has to be renewed every five years.  We got our first FCRA license in 2007. Each renewal has become increasingly more difficult, as India has been striving to achieve their own self-sustaining social work, without the aid of foreign charities.

India has also been in the throes recently of a lot of religious unrest with many determined that India should be for Hindus only.  As a result, foreign charities have had a lot of difficulty renewing their licenses as there is a perception that foreign charities are Christian, Muslim, or religions other than Hindu.  In reality, however, no foreign charity is allowed to engage in religious activity.  It’s the first rule of FCRA certification.  Nevertheless, India seems extremely worried about the religious influence that charities have through their work.  Over the past few years, tens of thousands of charities have been denied the renewal of their licenses and have been forced to shut down.

Two years ago at Rising Star Outreach, we were due for our normal five-year renewal.  But to our dismay, all renewals that year were postponed for three months.  Then another three months.  And again, and again.  It’s now been nearly two years that we have been in limbo, waiting for a renewal of our license.  We’ve had a lot of company, as all the other foreign charities due to renew the past two years have also been put off again and again.

All our projects had to be put on hold as we waited to get the renewal of our license.

Which brings me to the wonderful 58th chapter of Isaiah.  To my thinking, this is the greatest chapter on fasting in all of scripture.  Scot and Maurine Proctor did a beautiful job of describing Isaiah’s teachings on fasting in their podcast.  I’m going to add just another layer to their comments.

I had the wonderful opportunity several years ago to memorize this chapter.  At the time I was writing a book on Isaiah’s teachings.  Since I typically work out in the mornings on either the elliptical or treadmill, and since I don’t like to watch TV, instead, that year I decided to memorize Isaiah, during my morning workouts.  I know, it sounds crazy!  But it was a fabulous experience.

With each new chapter I memorized, I began to see connections I had not previously seen.  The book began to seem as if it were one beautiful whole, instead of isolated teachings.  I have to admit there were some chapters I skipped—particularly ones that prophesied doom and gloom against various countries that were enemies of Israel.

But when I got to the 58th chapter, it was like reaching the top of a mountain where the vista was breathtaking.  After spending the first half of the chapter telling the Israelites why God seemed not to hear their prayers nor pay attention to their fasts, Isaiah defined what a fast was NOT.   He basically lists the ways the Jews were observing the fast and asked rhetorically, “Wilt thou call this a fast and an acceptable day of the Lord?”  He clearly didn’t seem to think so.

Then Isaiah wrote several stunning verses about what a fast WAS.  He didn’t even mention going without food!

He lists eight things that comprise a fast acceptable to the Lord.  These will surprise you.  In his words they are:

  1. To loose the bands of wickedness,
  2. To undo the heavy burdens,
  3. To let the oppressed go free,
  4. And that ye break every yoke.
  5. Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, 
  6. that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house?
  7. When thou sees the naked that thou cover him;
  8. And that thou hide yourself from thine own flesh? (meaning you don’t deny any relatives that have need).

One thing I love about the Church’s teachings on fasting is that we have a program that does exactly that!  We give our fast offerings to our Bishop and they are used to provide bread to the hungry, housing to the homeless, etc.  It’s a beautiful way of getting each of us to participate in the Lord’s Law of the Fast.  I don’t know of another church that provides a program even remotely comparable to this principal of fasting.  I’m so grateful for the fast offering program!

The promised blessings for those who fast in accordance with the Lord’s Law of the Fast are  absolutely phenomenal blessings:

  1. Then shall thy light break forth as the morning
  2. Thy health shall spring forth speedily.
  3. Thy righteousness shall go before thee
  4. The glory of the Lord shall be your reward
  5. Thou shalt call and the Lord shall answer
  6. Thou shalt cry and He shall say, “Here I am”. 
  7. The Lord shall guide thee continually,
  8. We will be able to build up Zion
  9. We will be blessed to raise up the foundations of generations.

Amazing, amazing promises!  Seriously, how would you like to have the Lord’s promise that when you cry, He will say, “Here I am.  What do you need?”  Almost unimaginable!

Since memorizing this scripture, I have personally resorted to the Isaiah’s Law of the Fast on occasions when I was desperate for an answer from God.  On one occasion, when we were trying to adopt Thomas and Jolanta from Lithuania, we knew we were running against a very tight timeline.  We had been told that in order to survive, Jolanta needed surgery immediately.

Those of you who have done international adoptions know that it is NOT a fast process! It typically takes 1-2 years to complete.  We didn’t have that amount of time.  We had been warned that one of the longest holdups was getting the FBI to do a fingerprint check on every member of the family.  That process at that time usually took up to 8 months.

I decided to fast.  So, in accordance with Isaiah’s Law of Fasting, I prayed and asked God if there was someone He would have me serve.  That evening I got a call from a neighbor.  Her sister was sick and she needed to go to Florida be with her.  This neighbor asked if I could watch her son for a week, while she went.  She said she was desperate.

The thing is, this boy was particularly difficult.  He had been banned from nearly every home in the neighborhood because he was simply mean to other children.  You could’t leave him alone with kids for even five minutes.  My first thought was, “I have so many things I need to do to get this adoption going.  I have to get birth certificates, marriage certificates, signed by the governor of every state involved.  I have to get a home study done.  I have to prepare two bedrooms for the home study.  Every member of our family has to have medical exams, and psychological exams.”  How could I possibly tie myself down for an entire week watching a kid I didn’t dare leave alone with my children?

I thought wryly, “Seriously God, isn’t there anyone else I could serve???

But I had asked, and God had responded.  With great hesitation I agreed to take this boy in for a week.  But I must admit my heart was not in it.  That night we got a friend who worked for the police department to take our family members all down to the police station and get our fingerprints officially made and sent off to the FBI.  At least we got the process started . . . .

The next day the young boy arrived.  I kept trying to get necessary calls made and appointments set up, but every time I took my eyes off the kids, one of the kids would howl out with pain, as this boy pounced on them.  I felt so frustrated.  I had to stay with them every dang minute.

Finally, I got them all down for a nap.  I quickly ran upstairs to see if I could find our marriage certificate.  I pulled out the drawer that I thought I had filed it in but I pulled the drawer too hard.  It crashed on the floor, scattering the contents all over the floor.  “Oh great!”  There goes my precious time”, I moaned to myself, as I frantically started scooping up all the papers.  In the process, my eyes lit on a scrap of paper with the name and phone number of one of my former seminary students, Chris P. Chris had long since graduated from college and was now working for the State Department in Washington DC.  

I suddenly wondered if Chris might have any connections at the FBI that could possibly hurry the processing of our fingerprints along?  It was a wild guess, but what did I have to lose? I called the number on the scrap of paper.  He answered.  “Chris, do you know anyone at the FBI?”  Christ responded, “Not really, only the guy in charge of fingerprints.”  I got a tingle up my spine!

I explained to Chris what my dilemma was.  He promised to do what he could.  The next night I got a call that our fingerprints were now processed!  A friend of his in the FBI in Atlanta would meet me the following day to hand deliver the precious documents.  It was a miracle!!

I quickly repented of my bad attitude!  The rest of the week went relatively smoothly with the troubled young man staying with us.  In the end, I was glad I was able to help out.

Everything else came together almost seamlessly,  Within six weeks, we were on our way to Lithuania to pick up the two children!

That was the first.  Over the years there have been many times I have asked the Lord for someone to serve, as I began a fast.  The same was true this past two years as we have fasted for the renewal of our FCRA license.  I would add that I was not alone.  Our office staff has joined in fasting, as well as our Board of Directors.  Even all the students in our school in Tamilnadu—all 400 of them—joined in a fast.  Yet the license renewal did not come. We began to hear that a few Hindu-based charities had received renewals.  Months dragged by.

You know from a previous article that my prayer for someone to serve was answered when one of our former missionaries from Nicaragua swam the Rio Grand River and was picked up by ICE.  We were called by ICE and asked to sponsor him.  We took him in immediately.  I felt like he was an answer to my prayer for the FCRA license.  But the license didn’t come.

So I prayed again and asked God if there was someone else I could serve?  The next morning, in a church group text, I was alerted of a refugee family from Ukraine that needed a home.  Perfect!!!!  I was so happy to offer our home.  It turned out to be a blessing on so many levels.

Two weeks later, our license came.  Hallelujah!  I flew to India, where we had a meeting with our FCRA consultant, Dr. Kandasami, to determine our next actions.  Dr. Kandasami represents hundreds of the largest and most prestigious charities in India.  As we entered his office, he came around the desk and gave us all a hug, along with the words, “God has given you the license!”  I thought that was an interesting conclusion from the man who had spent many, many hours doing our audits, etc.  Then he explained that, of all the charities he represents, only three have received their license renewals.  He stated again, “This is a gift from God!”

Don’t we know it!  None of our partnering charities have received their license renewals.  We continue to pray for them.  I have been grateful many times over, that years ago I memorized the 58th chapter of Isaiah.  It taught me a new level of fasting.  I personally believe it contains a precious key to accessing the power of God in our lives—something we all need.  I love the idea that God serves those who serve His children.  It’s a simple formula for me. And a beautiful one!