Author: Renewal Ministries Staff

Peter Thompson: Answering the Call

Peter Thompson teaches at a church in Kenya.

Peter Thompson recently retired as Renewal Ministries’ country coordinator to Kenya, after more than twenty-one years of serving on Renewal Ministries’ mission trips and fifteen years as a country coordinator. Peter is retiring, because he will celebrate his eightieth birthday this year and believes it is time to pass on the reins. Bohumir (Bohus) Zivcak, from Slovakia, has replaced Peter as country coordinator for Kenya. We recently had the opportunity to speak with Peter about his years of service.

How did you come to work with Renewal Ministries?

Africa has been on my heart since I was a child, and I even tested a vocation as a mission priest with the Holy Ghost Fathers. However, I learned that ordained priesthood was not my calling, and I then went straight to compulsory military service. I was then married and had three children. We moved from England to Alberta, Canada, in 1967, when I joined the Hudson’s Bay Company as an assistant display director.

In 1974, I experienced a deep conversion through the Renewal. In fact, I first heard Ralph Martin speak in 1976 at the first major conference for the Renewal in western Canada.

After 1990, when Pope John Paul II called for a decade of evangelization in preparation for the Jubilee Year 200, I was inspired to live out my faith in an even deeper and more radical way. My wife and I returned to England to serve for two years with Sion Catholic Community for evangelization in parish missions with street ministry.

In 1996, I served on mission in the war-torn African country of Eritrea. Then, in 1997, I heard Ralph Martin and Peter Herbeck speak at a Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) conference. Peter spoke about missions, and we spoke afterward. In 1998, I went to Ghana on my first mission with Renewal Ministries. The next year, I went to Uganda, and in 2001, to Tanzania. In 2004, Renewal Ministries made me a country coordinator for Kenya.

I also served in the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS) offices for eight years and traveled to different parts of the world, including the Vatican.

Throughout the years, I have supported my ministry through my work as an artist. You can view my work at www.peterthompsonart.ca.

Tell us about the specific work you did as a missionary.

I have gone on twenty-five missions to Africa and fifteen to Kenya as the country coordinator serving in multiple dioceses. I’ve also served in the Caribbean, South Korea, India, Asia, and done teaching and leadership formation in Rome.

I discovered how hungry people are for the Gospel. The word would get out that we were in an area, and people would travel for many miles. I did a lot of apologetics because of the influence of more fundamental Christianity that made inroads in Africa. They would teach people that Catholics worshipped bread and statues, and that Mary had other children. But people were hungry to know their faith and answer these challenging questions. A lot of what I was asked to do was equipping the people.

In one area, we asked a group of catechists how many of them had a catechism. Only three of them did—so we went to a basilica in Nairobi and bought every catechism they had. Everyone left with one.

Please share some of your mission experiences with us.

In 2004, I traveled to Kenya with the previous country coordinators, Lloyd and Nancy Greenhaw. There was a priest who described the areas we were going into as “Satan’s territory.” We traveled 7000 feet up, and on the first day or so, hardly anyone came. However, the word gradually got around, and by the end of our time there, we were ministering to thousands of people gathered on terraces going up the hillsides. There were amazing healings and deliverances that took place, by the grace of God.

Another time, we were in what a priest had described to us as a very pagan area. On the first day, only two or three people came. We thought, “If they won’t come to us, we will go to them.” So we took a loud speaker and rode in the back of a pickup truck. There were no doors to knock on—since the people literally had no doors—so we met people where they were.

And finally, in Lunga Lunga, in Kenya, once I was speaking on Genesis 3:15: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” At that point, a green mamba—a very dangerous, very venomous snake—began moving toward a group of children, and some men came forward and crushed the head of the serpent. The Gospel was brought alive right in front of us, and it was very powerful.

What have you learned from your years of mission work?

It’s a humbling experience, because I’ve gained so much from being able to travel and to experience the Universal Church in different regions of the world. It has impacted and deepened my love for the Church Christ founded. Few people have had that opportunity, and God’s given that opportunity to me. I have experienced the witness of people who live in extremely difficult situations, and I have seen their faith and courage. It has been a great gift. They have been such a witness to me over the years about what it means to be a follower of Christ.

As someone from Western society, who has experienced all the comforts of life, the experience of serving in missions has allowed me to be able to experience the privations of life, and it has taught me to surrender all of those comforts for the sake of the Gospel. Once in Uganda, I remember having torn mosquito netting, a pail full of hot water to wash—splash—yourself in, and a little hut full of mosquitoes. The toilet was a hole in the ground. We ate boiled bananas morning, noon, and night, by handfuls. I learned that what for me are privations are simply daily life for others. This helps us grow in holiness. We need to embrace that. The people there said, “You are one of the only ones to come and live with us.”

What are your hopes for retirement?

I don’t consider myself retired. I still have my health. I’m still continuing to teach wherever the Lord opens doors. I don’t see myself stopping. In fact, I have been added as a member of Renewal Ministries’ Speakers’ Bureau.

After your years of service, what aspects of Renewal Ministries do you appreciate most?

God called Renewal Ministries into a worldwide apostolate whereby the lay and ministerial priesthood can work together in the four corners of the world—it’s a profound grace God has given Renewal Ministries for our time. The vision of Renewal Ministries stirs the spirit to be a witness, to proclaim the Gospel, and to serve the Church universal.

Renewal Ministries really created a tremendous opportunity for lay people to experience missions in different parts of the world. I am grateful to have been, and to continue to be, a part of that.

‘Let Your Faith Rise Up’

By Al Mansfield

Just over a year ago, I was praying. I was very concerned about some things in the Church, in our country, and in the world. I admit that I was feeling somewhat discouraged and lacking in faith and hope. Then I was surprised to sense the Lord speaking a word to my heart. The following is what I heard:

“Am I not the Lord God of all flesh? Are not the times and seasons in My hands? Do not the skies and the waters and the earth obey my command? Is anything too difficult for Me, says the Lord.

“You mourn and weep over my Body, the Church, but do not mourn and weep as those who have no faith. You grieve over my Body, the Church, but do not grieve as those who have no hope.

“I say to you, look to who I am, says the Lord. Keep faith with Me and in Me. Let your faith rise when all else would pull you down. Let your faith neither falter nor fail. For your faith is in a living God. Your faith is in an all-knowing and all-wise God. Your faith is in an all-powerful God. Your faith is in an all-loving God. I am never shocked; I am never surprised; I am never caught off-guard; I am never unprepared, says the Lord.

“In Me are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Take hold of Me by faith. Let your faith rise. Let your faith rise. Let your faith rise. I am the victor, says the Lord. Keep faith with my victory, says the Lord. Rejoice in my victory, and your faith will be your victory as well.

“For my Holy Spirit is strong. My Holy Spirit is fierce. My Holy Spirit is tenacious. My Holy Spirit is zealous for my glory. My Holy Spirit is not mocked. Do not grieve my Holy Spirit. Do not grieve or anger the Lord God who gives you his Holy Spirit. Yield to my Holy Spirit, says the Lord, and let your faith rise up!”

In this word, I felt like the Lord was chiding me and challenging me to exercise greater faith. In fact, it seems that the Lord is rather consistently chiding and challenging me, and I believe all of us, to exercise greater faith.

To exercise faith in the midst of the kinds of issues we face in the Church and in the world doesn’t mean that we don’t face reality or remain in ignorance or denial. But it does mean that we “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7). It means letting God’s Word, rather than our own thoughts and feelings, rule our lives.

To exercise faith means actually living our lives day-by-day, based on the truths that we profess to believe: that God exists; that God is a loving Father; that Jesus came and shed his blood on the cross and rose again for our salvation; that God’s own love is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit; that God promises to make all things work together unto good for those who love Him; that we are destined to share in Christ’s ultimate victory over sin and death.

I wish I could tell you that all it took was receiving this word for me to never again yield to discouragement or negative thinking. Alas, that would not be quite accurate. In fact, it was embarrassing for me to listen to others quote this word back to me, saying how much it helped them, while I myself was still struggling. But I share it here now with the hope that it will challenge me anew, and perhaps benefit others as well.

 

Al Mansfield has served the Catholic Church for fifty years in teaching, pastoral ministry, and administration. He holds an undergraduate degree in history and a Master’s degree in theology from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was pursuing a doctorate in religion when the Lord called him into full-time ministry in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
Al has been a pioneer in the Renewal in the South since 1970, serving as director of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal of New Orleans Office. Since 1972, Al has had the chief responsibility for organizing and managing conferences and other events in New Orleans that have attracted thousands of people from around the country. He is a past member of the National Advisory Committee and he served the National Service Committee as a “Traveling Timothy.” Al is a recognized teacher with a deep love for the Word of God and has spoken at conferences and retreats around the country. Al is married to Patti Mansfield and they have four children and eleven grandchildren. In 1995, Archbishop Francis B. Schulte appointed Al and Patti to be his
liaisons to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. In 2000, they were awarded the Papal Medal, Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (For the Church and the Pope), by Saint John Paul II.

Does Today’s Church Lack Genuine Mercy?

This article originally appeared on CatholicCulture.org. You can view it here.

Image Credit

By Dr. Jeff Mirus

Writing about the minor prophets on Tuesday, I mentioned this famous passage from Hosea: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings” (Hos 6:6). Now I am wondering why mercy is so conspicuously absent in the Church today.

This may astound my readers. But I am not referring to talk about mercy. That surrounds us almost constantly as Catholics today. But is mercy not most often advocated in a way that dulls our awareness of the gravity of offending God? Again and again, Catholic leaders and preachers who are far too influenced by the attitudes of our contemporary secular culture insist—or at least imply—that mercy is always about forgiveness and never about conversion, always about affirmation and never about instruction.

But this is not mercy. This is just a way to make our lives easier.

The Good News of Jesus Christ is not only that Christ has died for us so that our sins can be forgiven but also that we can be freed from sin and drawn into union with God by repenting and believing the Gospel (Mk 1:15). This is actually how the evangelist Mark summarizes Christ’s message. To understand what this means, we must ask ourselves about the context in which God is working. Put as simply as possible, this context is explained by St. Paul: “God our Savior…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:3-4).

Yet for all the talk about mercy today, was there ever an age in the Church’s history when both her leaders and her rank and file were so reluctant to speak God’s truth so that those who are far from Him can “repent and believe the Gospel”? Was there ever an age in which bishops, priests and religious were so prone to assume that every person is doing as well as he can, to argue that it is wrong to judge anyone’s behavior, to assert the value of all belief systems, and to insist that our sole task is to emphasize the isolated fact of God’s mercy—as if the fruits of that mercy may be reaped without belief in God, without trust in God, without learning God’s will, and without repentance and amendment of life?

Borrowing from another of the minor prophets, it was Micah who said that God requires each of us “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic 6:8). But, returning to Hosea, have we not instead plowed iniquity, reaped injustice and eaten the fruit of lies (Hos 10:12-13)?

Continue reading here.

Emmaus Center Ministers to Sudanese Refugees

This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ February 2019 newsletter, which can be viewed here.

Sudanese refugees face difficult living situations and a country that has suffered through decades of war and suffering.  Image Credit

For more than twenty years, Renewal Ministries has supported the Emmaus Center, a Catholic community within Uganda that, while small, has borne much fruit for the Lord and continues to do so. For this month’s report, we want to share with you news from Emmaus’ recent outreach to Sudanese refugees. Although this was not a Renewal Ministries’ mission, our support of the Emmaus Center through the years has been such that we indeed rejoice with them in work well done and want to share with our readers some of the far-reaching effects of their support. As Nancy Greenhaw, one of Renewal Ministries’ country coordinators, reported in our August 2017 newsletter, the Emmaus Center is a “major force for good that has influenced not only Uganda, but countries all around Africa.”

By Gabriel Oriokot, Outreach Program Coordinator

This report outlines our first major outreach to the Sudanese refugees settled at the Bidi Bidi camp in Uganda. When we were there, more than 250,000 people were settled in the camp. We know the task is enormous, and we may not be in a position to reach out to this vast number, but we also know that the love of God compels us to contribute the little we can to help build their lost hope and faith in God.

While preparing for this outreach, which received financial support from Aid to the Church, in Germany, we made two key decisions that contributed
to its success. First, due to lack of a logistical meeting place in the camp, we held the program at an already established center and transported the sixty-one participants there. Second, rather than simply going to the camps and meeting with as many people as possible, we trained leaders. We decided to start training leaders so they could then mobilize their people. This plan worked very well. We were able to serve the entire catechist community and some key leaders from Bidi Bidi.

Before beginning our outreach, we received a special blessing from our bishop. He prayed for blessings for our team and expressed gratitude to us for reaching out beyond our diocese to meet the needs of our neighbors who are hurting as a result of the war. He said, “Take with you the healing touch of Jesus and serve with compassion all those afflicted emotionally, physically, and psychologically.”

Deep Wounds

We quickly discovered that the participants were hurting, demoralized, and in need of teachings on inner healing and reconciliation. The Holy Spirit inspired us, and we started by helping them understand why God created us and the purpose of our lives. We also taught on our value in Christ—our true identity. However, this was met with strong resistance from the participants, who were led to ask many questions: Where is God in our situation of South Sudan? Is He punishing us? Why has He allowed us to suffer since 1955? Why are other countries in peace while we are in permanent agony, like being in hell on earth? Where is God when we have had two generations go through war? Many similar issues also came up. This prompted us to have an open, fruitful discussion. The participants shared their painful stories. Afterward, we were able to bring them to the Lord. We used the opportunity of being before the Blessed Sacrament, where Jesus Himself could minister to His people.

One of the participants fell sick, and it was discovered that he was suffering from typhoid and malaria. In fact, many participants kept falling sick. And another participant wanted to leave, because he had only one shirt and one pair of trousers. Instead, we bought him some clothes so that he could continue.

We were shocked to learn that, although they were catechists, almost no one had a Bible, and if they had one, it was badly torn. We wanted to buy Bibles for all of them, but we had not prepared for that kind of expenditure. However, it may be worth providing these catechists with Bibles during our next visit, funds permitting.

In addition to a lack of Bibles, we discovered that many of the Catholics in the refugee camp are timid in living and sharing the faith. These concerns were expressed to us by Bishop Sabino Ocan Odoki of Arua, who we met with, as well as the participants themselves. Consequently, other denominations, especially the Pentecostals, have greatly influenced Catholic Christians to leave the Church and join them.

During our meeting with the bishop and Msgr. Elizeo Ovure, vicar for refugees and migrants in the Arua Diocese, we discussed a number of the challenges facing the refugees and possible strategies to help them. The Arua Diocese accommodates up to one million refugees. Due to the huge number of people, the vast distances, and the few priests available, some camps go up to three months without a priest. The bishop said, “For this reason, the much-needed spiritual contribution of Emmaus Center Katikamu to support the refugee camps is timely.”

The bishop pledged his support of us for as long as it is needed and delegated Msgr. Ovure to assist us in future outreaches in the camps. He also gave us his apostolic blessing.

Forgiveness

Our teachings focused on sin and its consequences: spiritually, socially, psychologically, and economically. We also looked at the value and impact of sacraments in our Christian life. And perhaps most importantly, we taught on the importance of receiving and giving forgiveness to our enemies, as lack of forgiveness destroys us both emotionally and physically. We emphasized reconciliation and the Eucharist.

Only a day before our program on forgiveness and reconciliation, some rebels crossed from South Sudan and raided the refugees’ cows. The participants’ pain was still fresh, and they wondered whether we were serious when we taught them to forgive their enemies! In the camps, it is common to find that tribes cannot share freely with each other. Fights are common when warring tribes meet. The wounds are so deep that when we started to talk about the need to forgive and bless our enemies, some people cried, some felt like walking out of the hall, and others kept deep silence.

We strongly felt that the best way to handle this situation was to take participants to the chapel where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed. Indeed, Jesus took charge during the session of prayer, as participants were led to release forgiveness to those who had caused atrocities and hurts to them individually, to their families, or to their loved ones. During the service, representatives of different tribes released forgiveness to one another. This was a very moving day of our program. After the exercise, the Holy Spirit released great joy among the participants, which was eminent on their faces. They were able to hug one another and dance together.

We also dealt with the healing of painful emotions and feelings because of past inner wounds. They affect us psychologically and physically, and they influence and shape our behavior and character. One evening, we had another ministry to heal inner wounds before the Blessed Sacrament. Participants poured out their painful memories to the Lord in tears. Facilitators were available to pray with participants individually, and this took us a long time, as we didn’t want to hurry them in processing their painful feelings.

Leadership and Intercession

Toward the end of the conference, we taught participants basic skills on leadership and how to pray for the situations in their country. We discussed the power of the Holy Spirit and how to pray in the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Prior to the conference, the Emmaus Community prayed for a month for southern Sudan and those trapped in the camps. It was edifying for us to see the answers to our prayers for peace. The participants were so happy and asked us to go back to the camp to reach out to many of their brothers and sisters.

The participants are eager to see us build on the foundations that were laid. They pleaded with us to not leave them orphans but to go to them regularly to re-enkindle the fire of God’s love.

‘The Choices We Face’ Continues Inspiring Viewers

Ralph Martin and Dr. Tom Graves on “The Choice We Face.” You can view this episode here.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Greetings in Christ Jesus!

Our staff recently watched what will be the final episode for the 2018 The Choices We Face programs. I’m so glad we did! On the program, Ralph interviewed Dr. Tom Graves from St. Paul on the Lake Parish in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Dr. Tom spoke about his story of coming to meet Jesus and the difference it made in his marriage, family, and work.

Our whole staff was moved—I was moved to tears a couple of times—at the beautiful and amazing ways Jesus has worked through Tom, in the ordinary circumstances of life and work as a physician, to help people come to experience the transforming love of Jesus. Tom’s simple, humble, and honest way of speaking reminded us that Jesus wants all of His children to be His hands and feet, to be conduits of His mercy and power.

You can view the program by clicking the link here. I know it will be a blessing to you. You also can also watch it this week on EWTN or in the weeks ahead at www.RenewalMinistries.net/tcwf. (Click on “View show archives.”)

In two weeks, the 2019 episodes of The Choices We Face‘s will begin! We’re very happy and grateful to the Lord for what we believe is another power-packed season. You’ll hear from some of our favorite guests, including Patti Mansfield, Fr. John Riccardo, and Sr. Ann Shields, as well as Sr. Miriam James Heidland, Dr. Bob Schuchts, Fr. Burke Masters, and others.

Please pray that this new season of programs will reach those who most need to know the transforming love of Jesus.

In Christ Jesus,

 

Peter Herbeck

Vice President

Renewal Ministries

 

P.S. Please consider joining us for this year’s Renewal Ministries Gathering from April 5-7. You can find details by clicking here.