Brandon and Darnelle were married in
1974 and have two grown daughters, Amber and Analise. They live in
Burleson Texas, south of Fort Worth
In 1978 Brandon began working in radio,
helping to establish a major Christian radio station KVTT 91.7 FM in
Dallas Texas, where he eventually became station manager. It was there
that he began working in missions and developed a friendship with K.P.
Yohannan founder of Gospel for Asia, assisting him in a number of projects.
During his time with KVTT Brandon hosted
a number of radio programs. A listener began taping these programs
and sending them to different nations. Letters were received asking
for more tapes and other materials. Later invitations came to come
and minister in these nations. Brandon went and his American dream
was ruined but a new dream was birthed, one for the kingdom of God among
the poor and oppressed of the nations. Lasting relationships were
built and the work began.
Brandon pastored for a time in the Dallas
area and also founded Gentle Shepherd Counseling ministry.
For over 25 years Brandon and Darnelle
have worked in overseas missions. In response to the call of God
International Living Streams was founded in 2003. Our vision is
to join with our brothers and sisters around the world to fulfill the
great commission, see the kingdom of God established and help the poorest
of the poor including aids orphans. ILS is active in Kenya and
India where we sponsor leadership conferences each year.
The year was 2001. In a small church we helped pioneer in a small south Indian village, the Holy Spirit spoke these prophetic words to me. “This century will be called the century of the woman.” This word was delivered to the people with no qualifications. The translator did his job. Continuing, I said, “In the next 100 years, we are going to see dramatic change all over the world as God releases women into the purposes for which He has called them.”
Everyone stared at me blankly, even the team members who accompanied me. Since there were no chairs, many of our team members were asleep slumped over on the thin straw mats spread out to sit on. I wrapped up my sermon and told pastor Jesudas, “I have to get the team to our rooms to get some rest.” He understood, put someone in charge, and brought us out. The meeting continued for several more hours unabated with prayer, song, and sermon while we crashed, exhausted from more than 30 hours of travel.
September 2008, Mberra village, Nyanza District, southwestern Kenya. This area is called "Kuria-land" by the locals because the predominant tribe is Kuria. We were already full swing into the annual, pastors' conference. I had been preparing for many weeks to speak on the Blood Covenant. I felt armed and dangerous, having read some of the greatest books on the subject including the classic, The Blood Covenant by Clay Trumball written more than 100 years ago.
As I moved into my subject on the first morning, I decided to do some introduction into what covenant meant. I began to explain various agreements, and contracts that bind men legally. These binding agreements, though recognized in courts of law around the world, are not to be compared to a covenant which is far more powerful and spiritually binding. A covenant is for life and is a commitment made in the sight of God and human witnesses.
I decided to speak briefly about marriage because it is understood universally as a covenant. As I began to describe what marriage was and how God himself is called as a witness, something strange happened. I heard the Holy Spirit speak clearly to my heart. "This is the reason why female circumcision is a sin, because it violates the blood covenant of marriage and causes the shedding of blood from the woman before the time appointed of God in the physical union." In my heart, I said "what???"
I knew marriage was a covenant but not a blood covenant. We had been working in Kenya since 2000, and I was aware of female circumcision (female genital mutilation, FGM for short) but was not well informed on this subject and certainly unqualified to speak on it. But when God speaks one word, He often downloads volumes in a few seconds.
I am no medical expert. However, my understanding is when a female virgin has her first physical union, she usually bleeds when her hymen breaks. What I believe God was showing me was that female circumcision brought a spiritual and physical violation to the original purpose of God in the sacred covenant of marriage between a virgin man and a woman.
It creates physical and psychological problems for the girls that will negatively affect their relationship to their husbands. Though I felt very uneasy broaching this subject, I spoke what I believed the Holy Spirit wanted me to say. In Kenyan culture, female circumcision is seen as a way to insure purity. Many African men prize a girl who has been circumcised over one that hasn't.
Though time does not permit to explain the details of this female rite of passage, I want to say a few things. FGM is forced upon young girls anywhere from 8-14 years of age. It is quite painful and dangerous. These procedures are usually done by medically unqualified, local villagers. Sometimes girls get infected and occasionally die. So sacred is this "cultural right" to Kenyans that when colonial Britain outlawed it in the 1950's, it helped fan the flame of the Mau Mau rebellion.
The ensuing war left thousands dead and ended with the British leaving, and Kenya gaining her independence. I must say I did not want to confront this issue in the conference and wondered why the teaching of the Word would not be enough to help change Kenyan culture. But I knew I must obey God.
As we began to talk about FGM, a change happened in the spiritual atmosphere. God deeply touched a number of the pastors there. I did not spend long on the subject because I honestly did not have that much to say about it. But something powerful happened. Later in the conference, we heard testimony from some pastors who said they had wanted to confront the problem but did not know how. They said they are equipped now with new information and a vision to help these young girls.
In November 2008 only weeks after the conference, we worked with these same pastors and created a small camp where these girls could be sheltered during the great festival among the Kuria tribe in which FGM takes place. This is a time when the local villagers get together to feast and drink. Many get drunk. At a certain time in the celebration, they bring the girls for circumcision. If they can be sheltered during this festival, then they will be left alone. With the help of the pastors from the conference, we were able to help rescue 390 girls from FGM!!
Less than a week later in the city of Bunda, Tanzania located next to beautiful Lake Victoria, we were engaged in another pastors' conference. I had intended to do another conference on the Blood Covenant. I completed the first morning session and again touched on marriage to help illustrate the sacredness of what a covenant means in the sight of God. This time I carefully stayed away from the subject of FGM. I said to myself, "I obeyed God in Kenya, but that time was an unusual leading of the Spirit." Between teaching sessions, I was sitting down to rest and get a drink. One of the pastors, who had been in Kenya with me, leaned over and whispered in my ear, "You must speak about female circumcision here. It is very bad in Tanzania."
Before I had time to protest, the Spirit of God fell upon me; and I began to weep. Suddenly, a vision appeared in my mind. I began to see the young girls and women of Africa and heard the screams of young girls being forced into FGM. I heard the cries of the African women. My mind scanned across the vast African continent, and my heart was opened to the oppression of women.
I saw them being beaten, sexually abused, discriminated against, and devalued in every way. It was an overwhelming experience that left me shaken. I was barely able to get myself dried up for the next session. I completely shifted gears and focused like a laser upon the men. In Africa, it is culturally acceptable for a man to beat and abuse a disobedient wife. It occurs even among Christians!
We confronted FGM again, and then talked about marriage and how we men should treat our wives. I told the men how valued the women were in God's sight. I asked all the men to come forward. They came to the front of the small church and faced me in a line. I asked them to turn around, get down on their knees, and stretch out their hands to the women, and they did. I told them to repeat after me, "I ask you to forgive me for abusing you and devaluing you." Although they said it, the next line was hard because in African culture women are seen as property, often of the same value as a cow. In fact, women are purchased for cows in many rural villages when men pay the marriage dowry. I told the men to repeat after me, "You are my equal!"
In the minds of men, women are never equal in Africa, not in the villages, not in the city, and not if they are illiterate or educated. The men said it, and something broke. Some of the men began to weep and repent. The women sat there, not comprehending what was happening. Later, the women came to the front to face the men and forgive them. Some of them testified to healing and forgiveness.
Later, as we sat together at lunch with the pastors, one of them said to me how much the message was needed. Then, he said, "You think we beat our wives here in Africa, don't you?" He said again, "You think we hit our women, don't you"? I did not know what he was trying to say. Then, what he said shocked me. "You are wrong. Men do not beat women. They torture them with weapons!" Then, he began to describe some horrifying things. I left Tanzania with a deep conviction that God was calling me to deal with these issues again.
In April of this year, I was camping in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife refuge in southern Oklahoma just outside of Lawton. It is a beautiful place full of native, American lore and culture. Majestic buffalo are everywhere. On the second day, I decided to seek the Lord. As I began to pray in my tent, I felt the Lord drawing me out to the nearby lake. I walked along the shore until I found a solitary place and sat down on the rock. As I prayed and worshiped, the same burden I felt in Tanzania returned; but it was much more powerful than before.
Once again, I began to sob and cry for the oppression of women. This time it was accompanied by fear--the fear of God. For the first time, I realized I had no choice concerning this issue. As I was crying by the lake, the burden got so heavy I found myself asking God to take it away. I promised to obey. I will speak out, Lord. I will help oppressed women. I will help women who want to serve you and work in ministry. The presence of God was painfully strong. He was drawing near to demand my obedience.
This time my mind raced around the world as I was thinking of women everywhere. I thought of India where we have ministered for over 25 years. I thought of all the women who had committed "self immolation". That is when a woman commits suicide by setting herself on fire. In most cases, it is because her husband has beaten and tortured her to get more dowry money from her family. In India, the dowry is paid by the woman's family to the groom and his family. However, in Africa, it is paid by the groom to the bride's family.
Most believers in the world today are women, and we have oppressed and restricted them in ministry. What if we set them free? On that day next to the lake I knew God was commanding me to fight for equality and stand by our sisters whenever and wherever I can.
Today I am more excited than at any time in my life. We have been called to establish the kingdom of God in the earth. Where He reigns in righteousness, women will be treated with dignity and respect. As a man, it is my desire and mandate from God to help protect and promote women to their highest possible destiny in God!
Will the next 100 years see a dramatic change for the women of the world? If we will obey God, nothing can stop it!
"The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!" (Revelation 11:15)