Crammed with Heaven: good stories from 2023!

A monthly column in which Jenni Pretorius Hill shares stories of hope which bring Heaven’s perspective to Earth

My husband loves to start every ministry meeting with what he calls, good stories. It’s become a tradition at our weekly staff meetings that before we get into the business of the day, we celebrate whatever good thing might have occurred in our lives. Sometimes there are outrageous healing stories, or radical testimonies of God’s supernatural provision, but most often the stories relate to the small moments of victory in ordinary lives, moments that are overlooked if we aren’t intentional in acknowledging them. From a child who has achieved an award at school to an unemployed friend finding work, there is always something good and wonderful to celebrate. 

With the end of 2023 fast approaching, I went on a hunt to find some good stories. When we are a part of a living Christian community, it’s hard not to be encouraged by the hope-filled stories of those around us, even if we don’t feel we have anything to share ourselves. It might not have been a breakthrough year for everyone, but I believe that when we learn to celebrate the testimonies of others, we attract similar intervention into our own situations. 

For several years, we were trusting for a supernatural healing for my husband’s shoulder. In September he opted for surgery, and it has been a long and painful journey of recovery. We didn’t see the miracle we were trusting for, but our experience has not diminished our faith in a supernatural God. Our friend, whose son plays provincial rugby for the Lions, told me about the ministry happening in the team. His son, along with two of his friends, started leading a group with the under-twenty-ones. They have witnessed the Lord moving powerfully in all kinds of ways this year. One of the players suffered a debilitating knee injury that threatened to take him out of play for nine months. At the group, the young men gathered around him to pray for healing. The next day he went back to the doctor who diagnosed his AC ligament completely healed. 

At the start of the year, we were blown-away by the remarkable healing of a lady’s diabetic foot that was scheduled to be amputated. The family, refusing to accept the loss of her foot, turned to prayer. They took her to their local Healing Rooms and formed a group to intercede on her behalf. From the moment they set the prayer in motion, she started to heal and went on to make a full recovery. The faith of the woman’s daughter who had initiated the prayer, spurred others to trust for further miracles. We learned of several healings after this – one being of stage 4 kidney failure, and another one relating to cancer.

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Sometimes my faith is more challenged in situations of failed marriages and damaged emotions, but He never ceases to show Himself as one who mends and restores broken hearts. A lady named Jade sent me this: “In 2022 I felt like my marriage was over and that our daughter was going to grow up in a broken home…” One day at work, Jade broke down in front of her manager, and poured out her heart to her. Her colleague was a Christian who had just enrolled in a marriage course at her church in February of this year. She invited Jade and her husband to attend, which they did, as a last-ditch effort to save their marriage. Ten months afterwards she writes: “Our household has gone from a war zone to a place of peace.” Not only was their marriage saved, but her husband, filled with a new sense of confidence, followed through with a dream to open a motor mechanic business. The business has been prospering. Her final words to me were: “I feel so drawn to God like I have never been before. I love reading His word and singing His praises. My life changed in a matter of months. I can definitely say that God is the God of the impossible.” 

Not only does God love to intervene in marriages, but he honours them too. My friend and her husband always celebrate their anniversary with a restaurant meal together, but this year, after making reservations, they opted to cancel for financial reasons. Later in the day, my friend received notification of an account being settled in her favour, but because she had earmarked this payment to sow into a ministry, they stood firm on their decision to cancel their supper date. God was insistent however, because another deposit came into her account a little later, and this had a clear reference: “anniversary gift”. It was for the exact amount that they needed.  

I received another story from a lady who testified of God’s remarkable provision. “For the first half of 2023, we faced great financial difficulty,” she wrote. But because of their trust and faith in God’s provision they continued to live generously to the point that “no one would have believed had I told them how much we were struggling”. Their faith led them to register their first business and it took off immediately. “Not only that, but we found ourselves on a successful property development journey” and this has opened a door to three other business ventures. “He has exceeded all our expectations…as a family we have forgotten what it looks like to be in lack; that’s how good He has been.”

Baptised on macadamia farm

As we celebrate Christmas, the proclamation of angels is still true today: the coming of the Christ child is good news of great joy! We have friends who have seen hundreds of people saved, baptised, and restored this year through Iris Ministries in Mpumulanga. The most recent photo I received from them is of a smiling man being baptised in a little splash-pool under our hot African sun. They have been preaching the gospel every week to about 500 seasonal workers at a macadamia farm. Many have accepted Jesus, and on this particular morning, they baptised about 30 workers in their pool. Not only have they witnessed the demonstrated power of the gospel on local farms, but 2023 has seen the ministry expand into the dark world of drugs and prostitution. My friend writes: “in the middle of syringes, drugs and chaos, we worshipped the Lord and many cried out to Him, asking Jesus to save their lives and rescue them from this hell.” 

I believe that Jesus is the desire of all nations, regardless of whether people recognise their longing for Him or not. I received a testimony from a couple who were in Uganda recently to minister at a conference. The husband spoke on a national radio broadcast about marriage, family, and healing in relationships. Afterwards, the station was so inundated with calls from people that he was invited to speak again, this time with his wife. They ended up speaking on two more broadcasts on the topic of marriage and restoration, and following the success of these, they were asked to appear on television. Their pre-recorded broadcast will appear on national Ugandan television following the president’s Christmas message, and their brief was to speak on the birth of Jesus as hope to their nation.  

2023 has been a year crammed with Heaven. As you reflect on it, I pray that you too will see the many moments where He has been at work in your world, for your good and for His glory. 

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