This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ February 2019 newsletter.
Dear Fellow Disciples,
Events in the Church and the world continue to unfold, but our job is to “press on,” sharing the message of salvation with all that will hear and strengthening those who are laboring in the vineyard of the Lord.
I’d like to share with you about one of our most special missions, that which we do in Lithuania. Why is it special? Because it is the first place we went as the Lord began a new phase of our work in Renewal Ministries. We had been doing individual mission trips for many years, but this was the first time that we began to develop teams to multiply what we were able to do individually.
My dates may be a little off, but I think this is how it all unfolded. In 1992, three young Lithuanian students arrived in the US and had one dollar among them. They used it to call a Lithuanian American priest in Connecticut, who told them not to proceed to the Protestant conference they were invited for, but to stay in the airport until he could pick them up. He then drove them to the Franciscan University of Steubenville (FUS), so they could see authentic Catholic renewal. When they returned to Lithuania, they shared their experiences with their archbishop, Sigitas Tamkevicius, who had recently been released from Siberian labor camps as the hold of the Soviet Union was broken. He then traveled to FUS and met with Fr. Michael Scanlan, who in turn contacted me about going with him to Lithuania to help strengthen the Lithuanian church that was newly emerging from long oppression and persecution. We traveled there in 1992 and did some initial conferences. The next year, we returned with the FIRE team and did some big FIRE rallies that were pivotal in giving birth and strengthening significant renewal communities and ministries that we have been supporting with periodic visits and financial aid ever since.
At that time, Peter Herbeck, Sr. Ann Shields, and I had begun regularly praying together to seek God’s direction for us, and one day Sr. Ann got a word from the Lord that we would be going to Lithuania. She said she didn’t even know where that was. Shortly after, that the events described in the above paragraph unfolded!
I was back in Lithuania in 1998, but other team members then took over the support of our work there, including Dr. Peter Williamson, who served in this way for many years, and now, Bohus Zivak, from Slovakia, who currently does significant work there on behalf of Renewal Ministries.
So it was a real joy to return to Lithuania last fall for a full week, at the invitation of Archbishop Gintaras Grusas. I first met the archbishop when he was a deacon preparing for St. John Paul II’s visit to Lithuania in 1993; interestingly, only a month before my most recent arrival, he had just finished organizing Pope Francis’ visit. His main concern for my time in Lithuania was that his priests and seminarians, and as many priests and seminarians from other dioceses as possible, heard my teachings on holiness, evangelization, the new Pentecost, etc.
Over three days, I gave eleven talks to the priests and seminarians at the major seminary in Vilnius, the capital. Some of the talks were transmitted live to the next two biggest dioceses in Lithuania, Kaunas and Telsiai, where priests were gathered for their monthly study days. A total of about 220 priests and seminarians heard all or some of the teachings. This was about a third of the 700 or so priests in the entire country! The archbishop and his auxiliary bishop of Vilnius—along with myself and the only other layman there, the one doing the videoing—each prayed over a line of seminarians and priests who wanted more of the Holy Spirit active in their lives.
While there, the archbishop also scheduled me to do major media interviews to publicize the publication of the Lithuanian translation of The Fulfillment of All Desire.
On my last weekend in Lithuania, I did an all-day rally at the cathedral in Vilnius, which was full, and then drove to Kaunas for an all-day rally there as well, in the largest conference hall of the university. They were wonderful days full of blessings and the presence of God.
At the end of the last rally, I spent time with the Living Stones Community, which we have been supporting through your generosity all these years and which continues to do effective evangelization throughout the country. They gathered together the 1000 people who overflowed the university conference hall. I also had contact with other groups we are helping in university evangelization, apologetics, and other evangelization efforts.
We work in more than forty different countries now, but we will always have a “soft spot” in our hearts for where these missions all began and continue to this day.
Thank you for your role in making this and so many other things possible to strengthen God’s people and draw as many as possible to Himself.
Your brother in Christ,