Author: Renewal Ministries Staff

A Trip Through the Land of Saints and Martyrs

 

The Voice in the Desert Community in Krakow, Poland, created vibrant worship paintings.

“The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” – Gerard Manley Hopkins

By Bruce Rooke

After two weeks in the land of saints and martyrs, we touched back down in Detroit.

Peter and Debbie Herbeck, and my wife Julia, and I had hopped through Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland, engaging with different leaders and covenant communities; sharing Word, prayer, and Pentecost with students and believers; and immersing ourselves in the deep living history of faith these countries hold.

When you come back from a mission trip, it can be like carrying a candle. You hope the fragile light of those smiles doesn’t flicker out in the rush of your returning and the demands of your to-do lists.

Fortunately, we carried back a bonfire.

The Spirit is strong here. Strong enough to break the iron bars of a dark Nazi cell in Auschwitz and outlast another forty-five-plus years of Communism. But what you remember—what stays with you after you walk the horrors of Birkenau or kneel before the blood-stained cassock of St. John Paul the Great—is not the weight of the crosses, but the resolute joy of St. Maximillian Kolbe and the Holy Father’s echo of the angels: “Do not be afraid!” And even though the people here are now facing many of the same challenges that we face in the West, there is longing for a God who is stronger than their fears, a God who dreams big.

Budapest, Hungary

Julia and I got a head start on some of those dreams by going to Budapest first, where we spent a wonderful time with Country Coordinator Deacon Zoli Kunsabo and his wife, Panni, at their “Only One” homeless shelter. The place resounded with transformed and transforming lives, and one chorus was heard over and over: “There was just something different about this place than all of the other shelters.” Deacon Zoli and Panni continue to dream big with God, as they pray with energetic excitement (as only Hungarians, like my wife, can!) for what God has next for them and their community.

Podolínec, Slovakia

After picking up Peter and Debbie, we drove with Bohuš Živčák, country coordinator for Eastern Europe, and another community member, Marek, to Podolínec, Slovakia, where we stayed in a 375-year-old Redemptorist monastery that once served as a concentration camp for hundreds of religious during the Communist oppression. There is a great sense of peace and welcome here.

The same can be said for The River of Life community that makes its home here. Founded by Bohuš and Redemptorist Fr. Michal Zamkovský, it continues to gather in and renew more and more lives. We had the honor of being with them at their amazing new community center that operates like a loving invitation to the abundant life. Children of all ages play together in the large outdoor space (without mobile phones or boredom!), and inside, the worship and deep prayer is somehow both public and personal. But as its name testifies, The River of Life is more than a reservoir, as it now flows out beyond its walls to love the ones He loves: from a nearby Catholic school, where a number of members are teachers (and where Debbie and Peter elevated and challenged both high school students and faculty), to the far reaches of Nairobi, Kenya, where they are now building new relationships in mission.

Kraków, Poland

After a Lord’s Day hike in the High Tatras, following in the bootsteps of John Paul II, we moved on (with aching legs) to Kraków, Poland. We took in the majesty of the John Paul II Sanctuary and its breathtaking mosaics, then went “next door” to kneel before the relics of St. Faustina within the Shrine of The Divine Mercy, bathing our prayers in the red and white rays emanating from the heart of the Merciful Jesus. We were with members of The Voice in The Desert, a vibrant young Charismatic Catholic community in the heart of Kraków. Later that evening, we joined in their bi-weekly open meeting, where 150 young people and families (leaving their shoes at the door!) worship and pray and dance and, yes, even paint their way through the night. Hungry for experienced teaching, they sat rapt as Peter passionately showed them their place in the history of the Charismatic Renewal. The Spirit was especially strong in the hearts of men there, as Peter and Bohuš called them to stand as chosen sons, stop cowering in their hidden sins, and seek the freedom and power that they have in Christ. The Heart of Christ beats loudly in this community, as evidenced by their radical hospitality and the many times the image of a heart is portrayed in the paintings they create, real-time, throughout the worship.

Bialystock, Poland

A six-hour train ride then took us to our last stop: Bialystok, Poland, and the Pentecost Life in Freedom conference. Beautifully hosted by the Ezechiasz (Hezekiah) Covenant Community, Peter and Debbie inspired the 300-400 people who gathered, in talk after talk (after talk!) that we are free to live large in Christ because we are chosen, we are saved, and we are sent sons and daughters of The King. Julia and I were privileged to share the testimony of our marriage, which proves, yet again, “jakże w spaniały jest nasz Bóg” (How Great Is Our God). The Spirit descended in the many prayer sessions we had throughout, from praying over the young people there, to the Charismatic call of Father George during Mass, to the many private Unbound and healing prayers that we had the honor of experiencing throughout the weekend.

Behind it all towered a twenty-foot-tall image of St. Faustina’s Merciful Jesus that served as the backdrop for the stage. As we stood dwarfed before it, its size seemed to capture perfectly how we felt throughout this trip: Our God is one very big God indeed.

This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ November newsletter, which you can view here.

Casting Nets: Prayers for Healing in the RCIA

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The following article is the third in a series called “Casting Nets” that will run over the coming weeks. They are written by “John,” a student in one of Ralph Martin’s New Evangelization classes, and document several evangelization opportunities he has performed in his various ministries. He writes, “Each ministry is unique with various situations, circumstances, and needs; but the one constant is broken and injured people. It is my experience that there is no greater potential for miracles to occur than when desperate people meet Jesus. I have been blessed to have seen many people come to Jesus—often in surprising or unexpected ways—and quite often, it is I who is the most surprised.”

By John

I love RCIA, because evangelization is expected. I had two topics that I wanted to get across on this particular night. First, prayer is the most important thing that we need to learn to do, and second, that prayer can seem simple, but it is hard to do it well. I began by challenging the RCIA class that “if prayer didn’t work and if, in fact, we were just speaking words to the sky and God never answered us—then why even bother? Why are we are wasting our time?” It was blunt, but honest.

I then I gave two personal examples of answered prayers in my own life, and a couple of the candidates also shared their stories. I then began to teach about how to pray. I spoke about rote prayer, spontaneous prayer, contemplative prayer, healing prayer, intercessory prayer, meditative prayer, etc.

Then I announced that we needed a prayer practicum. I told them about my ministry (healing and deliverance) and told them about some of the things I’d witnessed. Using Mark 16:17-18 as a spring board, I said that I would teach them what I knew about healing prayer and how to pray with others. I then asked if there was anyone present with any injuries, aches, pains, etc. The first person to step forward was an ex-Detroit police officer. She said she had bad knees and that they hurt mostly after sitting. We gathered around her, and I told her and the others what I was about to do, explaining it slowly and carefully. I told her to relax and just let me know if she felt anything. We prayed. She began to sweat and was feeling heat all throughout her body. I asked her to try her knees out. She walked around and said that they were “a little better.” We prayed again, and on the second try, she said that they were “definitely better.” Praise God!

The five candidates were now paying closer attention, but I detected some skepticism, because this was not something visible. Plausible, perhaps; visible, no.

I asked if anyone else had any aches or pains. A woman who was studying to be a nurse reported hip problems and sciatica. Again, I explained the process, but before we even started praying for healing, she said she was feeling tingling. I pointed out how our good and gracious God was already at work—even before we had asked Him. I pointed out that this was not atypical when the Spirit is stirred up, and we prayed into the feeling. After a minute or so, I had her test her back, and she said she felt about the same, but was “sweating like crazy.” I offered to pray more for her. It was then she said something I’d always wanted to hear someone say. She said, “You can pray if you want, but the reason my back hurts is because I have one leg that is shorter than the other.”

Yes! Thank you, Lord! I had always wanted to see this malady healed and had been praying for the opportunity for some months.

I had her sit and put her feet on my knees, and sure enough, the right leg was about three-quarters of an inch shorter than the left. I lined up her boots so that everyone present could see the difference. I simply prayed “In the name of Jesus Christ, right leg, grow.” She said she felt something tingling in her knee, and after about five seconds, we all watched as the leg began to stretch, and we saw the two heels come together perfectly. Total time—about twenty seconds. I asked the candidates “do you see this?” Needless to say, they were all wildly excited. In fact, they wanted to pray over each other. We spent the rest of the class talking about God’s abundant mercy and love—and yes, all joined the Church the following Easter.

Note: I challenged the class to go and do the same (evangelize and heal), stressing that Mark 16: 17-18 applied to all of us—not just to me. Two weeks later, one of the young ladies in the class told me how she prayed for healing for a college classmate who was a “professed Baptist who hated Catholics.” He received healing for his back and is now reevaluating his view of Catholics.

Meeting Jesus for the First Time

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The following article is the second in a series called “Casting Nets” that will run over the coming weeks. They are written by “John,” a student in one of Ralph Martin’s New Evangelization classes, and document several evangelization opportunities he has performed in his various ministries. He writes, “Each ministry is unique with various situations, circumstances, and needs; but the one constant is broken and injured people. It is my experience that there is no greater potential for miracles to occur than when desperate people meet Jesus. I have been blessed to have seen many people come to Jesus—often in surprising or unexpected ways—and quite often, it is I who is the most surprised.”

The names of the individuals involved have been changed to protect privacy, and the author has been kept anonymous because he would like Jesus to have the credit for this work.

By John

As my wife and I arrived at the crisis pregnancy center, I had word of knowledge (a “nudge”) about someone with an ankle problem. It came and went so quickly and so quietly that I doubted it and initially brushed it away. However, as we were setting up for our Communion service for the seventeen women present, I overheard someone mention having sprained an ankle (perhaps I dismissed that nudge too soon). As my back was turned, I did not know who had said it, but no matter; God provides. My wife and I introduced ourselves and said that we were from the Catholic Church in town.

“Oh! I’m Catholic,” said a young woman who I’d estimate was between sixteen and eighteen years old. I asked, “Oh? Which church do you belong to?”

She hesitated. “I don’t really belong to a church right now.”

“Oh” I said. “Which church do you live near?”

She did not know the name of the church. I asked her, “When was the last time you went to church?”

She couldn’t remember that either. It became apparent that she was living in a non-practicing Catholic household and, in fact, she later admitted that she had not even been baptized. I had prepared a sermon based on the readings for that day, but this young lady didn’t even know the first thing about Jesus, so I abandoned my plan. I felt the Lord wanted me to focus on this young woman, so I asked her, “How is your prayer life”? “Honestly” she said, “I don’t even know how to pray.” “That’s OK,” I said. “I can help.”

I led her in an impromptu prayer that went something like this: “Jesus, I don’t even know if You are real, but people tell me You are, and You sound awesome. I’ve really messed up my life down here, and I can’t fix it anymore. I need some help. If You are really there, I invite You to come into my life and ask You to please help me. Amen.”

“That’s a prayer?” she asked. I laughed, “Yes; it’s a prayer. It’s a very open and honest prayer from the heart.”

We then spoke about the Holy Spirit, and then I led the whole group in a prayer to the Holy Spirit, followed by some quiet time. I told them that I had the sense that someone was feeling peace, another forgiveness, and that there was someone present with an injured ankle. As it turned out, it was the same young woman who I’d just taught to pray. She was surprised that I called out the ailment. I asked if it would be OK if my wife and I prayed over her. “What do I do?” she asked nervously. I smiled and replied, “Nothing at all. You just sit there and receive.” I asked the group to extend their hands in her direction and imagine Jesus fixing her ankle.

I thanked the Lord for her life and told her that I was going to put my hand on her ankle. I asked her to let me know if she felt anything. After a short while, she began to weep and said she had just felt a wave of emotion. She didn’t understand why she felt that way or what was going on, but I told her it was quite common. Someone else in the group told her it was the Holy Spirit. She said she felt a cold feeling on her ankle. She was shaking, crying, and laughing all at the same time, as the Holy Spirit fell upon her. I asked her how her ankle felt. “I don’t know,” she sobbed.

I said, “Well? Stand up and test it!” She began walking around—completely pain free. It was a very beautiful moment, because she didn’t understand what had happened or why she was healed. She was just completely overwhelmed with emotion and God’s love, and she just kept sobbing and saying, “What? Why? How?”

While reflecting on the incident, it struck me that in a scant fifteen minutes, this young woman—who previously had no idea of who Jesus was or if He even existed—met the risen Lord more powerfully than most people will in their entire lifetime. She went away that day knowing two things for certain: there is a God, and He loves her.

‘Do Not Be Afraid to Witness the Truth’

 

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This letter is our Blessed Mother’s message for the world, given to Mirjana Solda in Medjugorje, on Nov. 2, 2018. You also can find it at Sr. Emmanuel Maillard’s website, here.

Dear Children,

My motherly heart suffers as I am looking at my children who do not love the truth, those who are hiding it—as I look at my children who do not pray with their feelings and actions. I am sad as I am saying to my Son that many of my children no longer have faith, that they do not know Him—my Son.

That is why I call you, apostles of my love: you strive to look to the very depth in human hearts and there you are certain to find the little hidden treasure. To look in this way is mercy from the Heavenly Father. To seek the good even where there is the greatest evil—to strive to comprehend each other and not to judge—that is what my Son is asking of you. And I, as a mother, am calling you to listen to Him.

My children, the spirit is mightier than the flesh, and, carried by love and actions, it overcomes all obstacles. Do not forget: my Son has loved you and loves you. His love is with you and in you when you are one with Him. He is the light of the world and no one and nothing will be able to stop Him in the final glory.

Therefore, apostles of my love, do not be afraid to witness the truth. Witness it with enthusiasm, with works, with love, with your sacrifice, and, above all, in humility. Witness the truth to all those who have not come to know my Son. I will be alongside you. I will encourage you. Witness the love which never ends because it comes from the Heavenly Father who is eternal and who offers eternity to all of my children. The spirit of my Son will be alongside you.

Anew I am calling you, my children: pray for your shepherds, pray that the love of my Son may lead them.

Thank you.

Casting Nets: The Penny Talk

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The following article is the first in a series called “Casting Nets” that will run over the coming weeks. They are written by “John,” a student in one of Ralph Martin’s New Evangelization classes, and document several evangelization opportunities he has performed in his various ministries. He writes, “Each ministry is unique with various situations, circumstances, and needs; but the one constant is broken and injured people. It is my experience that there is no greater potential for miracles to occur than when desperate people meet Jesus. I have been blessed to have seen many people come to Jesus—often in surprising or unexpected ways—and quite often, it is I who is the most surprised.”

The names of the individuals involved have been changed to protect privacy, and the author has been kept anonymous because he would like Jesus to have the credit for this work.

By John

I was looking for a new idea for a presentation at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center I volunteer for ministry. I decided to do a talk on self-esteem because if there is anything these people need more of, it is self-esteem. Society has labeled these people as losers, deadbeats, scum, useless (or worse) and they need to know that it is what God thinks about them that matters, not what society thinks. I had recently watched a video from Fr. Dave Pivonka and in the video, he compared pennies to souls. I decided to integrate the teaching into my talk.

The talk involved giving out a “lucky penny” to all attendees as they entered the place where I gave the talk. (After all, who doesn’t want a lucky penny?) I began with how God’s love is universal and available for all. I then talked about the parable of the lost sheep (Mt 18:12–14) and drew a comparison between their scatted lives and disordered priorities to lost sheep. Next, I broke open the parable of the lost coin (Lk 15:8-10). I compared the woman in the parable to the Lord, who will not leave a corner unswept or a room unchecked in order to find every lost soul. Finally, I asked them to take out their pennies. I pointed out how different they were, yet all were of the same essence. I pointed out that some are old and worn while other are bright and shiny—just like each of us. I then reflected on the fact that some are scraped, nicked, or even bent, indicating a hard life (just like us). Some are foreign (because many of the residents are not from the immediate area), and some are not, but the most important thing is that all have worth. Just as the US Mint purposefully makes every single penny and then sends them out to every corner of the world, so too God with our souls. Just as no penny is unplanned or worthless and all are accounted for—so too are we. Finally, after circulating all around the world, and their job is done, the mint collects every single penny and takes them back in (no matter what shape or condition they are they are in), and just as when they were made, every penny is again accounted for. Most importantly, none are worthless—there is no such thing as a worthless penny. I then related this to our souls and how, upon our death, God carefully gathers every soul back and accounts for it. The talk lasted for forty-five minutes and (I thought) went well. Afterwards, I asked if anyone wanted prayer. A tall, thin, man with an addiction problem approached. He asked if he could tell me a story before I prayed over him. I said “absolutely.”

His said, “I’ve never been religious and haven’t been to church in a long time. I didn’t think that God even knew who I was, but your talk really spoke to me today.” I said, “That’s great! I’m glad to hear it.”

He then looked downcast and began tearing up. He said, “I’m so tired of the drugs. They have ruined my life and every relationship I’ve ever had. I’ve lost cars, money, friends, and family. All I have left in the world is my two boys.” He continued, “My wife called me earlier today and we argued. She said that she wanted to leave and take the kids. I can’t really blame her, but they are all I have left to live for.”

He continued, “After we talked for an hour, she said that for some reason, she wouldn’t leave me just now and was going to give me one more chance. I thanked her for that and promised that it would be different. I know now for sure that it will be different, because God gave me a sign during your talk.”

I said, “That is awesome brother!” I encouraged him and added, “Now remember, you need to hold God to His promise. Just tell Him, ‘Lord, I can’t do this without You, and You gave me a sign—whatever that sign was—so I’m counting on You to help me pull through this.” I then reminded him that the best place to do this was in church.

He said, “Yeah, I’m going to do that. Thanks.” Then he looked at me and asked, “Do you know what my wife’s name is?” Well, I’d never met this man before, so quizzically, I said, “No, I have no idea.”

“Penny,” he replied.

NOTE: As a follow-up, my wife and I met Penny by chance eight months later. She was in rehab herself and said that her husband had been clean and sober since I had last seen him, and that he still carried the penny in his wallet. Praise God!