Tag: mission

Church Remains Strong in Romania & Slovakia

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Tom Edwards (left) speaks at the Fire Rally on The Family as Living Stones.

By Tom Edwards, Country Coordinator

This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ September 2017 newsletter.

Oradia, Romania

Our first event in Romania was an all-day meeting at Ave Maria Radio. The forty-five participants were hungry souls with open hearts, seeking encouragement and exhortation from God’s Word. The worship session was lively and Spirit-filled. Team member Marilyn Bergeron, of Cornwall, Ontario, presented a teaching session on fear versus boldness. It struck a chord, and many later testified of the need to be free of fear in the sharing and living out of their faith.

We then broke into workshop groups, with team member Jean Thompson leading a pro-life workshop, Romania Country Coordinator and native Tibi Majores sharing on the gift of tongues, and another local brother teaching on the gift of prophecy. Country Coordinator Bohdan Novak, from Slovakia, shared his powerful testimony, which brought him from a life of bondage and addiction to a ministry of full-time lay Catholic evangelization and mission. I also taught on the Great Invitation.

The combination of the teachings, workshops, and a video on our Asian missions paved the way for a period of personal empowerment and healing prayer. Every participant received personal prayer by our teams. Tears flowed freely, as the Holy Spirit graced us with His powerful presence, deeply touching the hearts and minds of this people so utterly ready to yield to a touch from the Lord.

Babeș Bolyai University (UBB)

With more than 41,000 students, UBB is the largest university in the country. In a dimly lit room of an ancient building high above the city streets, a group of forty Catholic students gathered together for five hours on a Sunday afternoon. These “kids” have been gathering weekly to worship, pray, and seek God in spite of being surrounded by a very ungodly atmosphere. Worship was an anointed time of “purity in the Spirit.” These young people have a measure of maturity not found in many other parts of the world.

Marilyn observed:

“I am always inspired by the community life we find in these countries, with people living much as the early Church. They are so committed to meeting and praying together—all ages and different walks of life—for each other and the needs of the Church. Our team offers them much needed encouragement to keep moving forward. Knowing that Renewal Ministries cares enough to send a team to their country means a great deal to them. They realize that they are not alone in their efforts. As outsiders, our perspective is different, and they listen very attentively to talks by our team members. Their leaders have identified poor knowledge of the Bible as a concern in a number of the communities. Our talks are biblically based, and I believe God uses them to underline the importance of studying the Bible.”

Jean Thompson reflected on the impact the pro-life message had on these university students:

“I was surprised to find out a pro-life message was included in the workshops, along with tongues and prophesy. Tibi was obviously listening to the Holy Spirit, as the hunger for information and guidance soon became evident.

“Romania has the highest abortion rate in all of Europe. There have been times when yearly abortions far outnumbered live births. The men and women who attended the workshop wanted to know how abortions are done; its spiritual, emotional, and psychological effects; what has been proven effective in other countries to stop it; what’s the law in their country; how we can help someone who’s had an abortion; and so many, many other questions. It was a joy to be with these students who are remaining strong with very little support!”

Odorhei

Our mission here was to share with a strong Catholic Renewal community and surrounding smaller communities. Around ninety people attended, not a few of them young adults and families. The praise ministry was strong and lively. Our team moved among the participants following a time of quiet reflection, and the Holy Spirit began to work in profound ways, as hearts were touched.

We knew the next day would entail a very early departure and a day’s drive to our destination in Slovakia. Therefore, we were grateful when a woman who had been profoundly moved by the evening’s ministry asked us to stop by her bakery early the next morning.

We accepted the offer. The bakery was filled with fresh baked bread and goodies of every kind. The woman had already prepared bags of things to go—loaves of fresh bread, assorted sweet pastries, sandwiches loaded with meat and veggies, and cups of the strongest coffee ever to touch human lips. We prayed for the lady and her staff, and off we went. We were set for the journey.

Presov, Slovakia

About 4000 people attended the Fire Rally in Slovakia. In addition to powerful talks, the day was punctuated with vibrant music and praise, flag ministry, dramatic sacred dance and mime presentations, as well as times of prayer ministry in which thousands responded. The day closed with Archbishop Bernard celebrating Holy Mass (with live telecast to all of Slovakia) and sharing an encouraging message of hope and a tremendous word of encouragement for the ongoing work of the renewal in the Church.

Jean Thompson reflected:

“I was excited to hear what our good Lord has been doing since the team was last in Slovakia. As always with the Lord, I was not disappointed, but richly blessed.

“Many told us how they continue to be blessed and strengthened through the teachings, testimonies, and prayer they received last year, especially in the area of forgiveness in the families. They articulated clearly what they heard and took into their hearts. One woman, whose husband was a Communist leader and who has been harshly criticized for her faith throughout the years, came running up and gave me the biggest hug. She shared that ever since she received prayer last year, Jesus was lifting lifelong burdens off her and blessing her family.

“Last year, we prayed for peace and unity in the parish of her son, a Greek Catholic priest. This year, he shared the beautiful blessings our Lord was pouring out in his parish. Instead of hurt and frustration, he was brimming with joy and holy expectation.”

Renewal Ministries continues to have an effect on several Eastern European countries. Other Renewal Ministries associates also have worked diligently with great zeal in Hungry, Romania, Slovakia, and other countries to advance the Gospel and renew the Church. They have all labored hard and well to lay a foundation upon which we are privileged to continue to build.

Encountering Forgiveness in Uganda

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Offering praise at a leaders’ retreat in Uganda.

This article originally appeared in the August 2017 Renewal Ministries’ newsletter, which you can view here.

By Nancy Greenhaw, Country Coordinator

This trip was very powerful. We facilitated a discipleship school with 145 leaders from most of Uganda. Some of our most interesting conversations occurred during meals, as our Ugandan brothers and sisters shared their experiences. One example is this story from Robert Tumuhimbise, the National Coordinator of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) in Uganda. It demonstrates the unique obstacles encountered in Uganda.

Robert’s team was doing a Life in the Spirit (LIS) seminar for young men who had been captured by and then rescued from the Kony Rebels. As they began the talk on God’s love, a young man jumped up and shouted, “SHUT UP!” In the shocked silence that followed, the young man screamed out, “I was taught by my mother to pray, and we daily prayed the rosary. My family and I were captured by the Kony Rebels, and my father, who was injured, couldn’t keep up, so they clubbed him to death. When my mother cried out, they gang raped her, and after all the soldiers had finished, they cut her throat, and she bled to death. Where was your God of love then?”

The young man and two of his friends left, and the team stopped for the day. They invited people to come by their quarters for tea and cookies. They were surprised when the three young men who had stormed out came by just to chat. They actually came back for cookies twice! One team member finally told them that she didn’t understand the ways of God and why He permitted such horrible things, but that the same God had also rescued them, and they shouldn’t forget that. That word was the bridge that helped them begin to dialogue. They eventually went through the LIS, forgave, and asked God into their hearts to heal the hurt and give them a new life. Only God can heal a wound that deep.

This mirrored an experience we had a couple of years ago. One young woman told us that the Kony rebels had come into her village and brutally murdered many people, including her mother and father. They also committed other unspeakable atrocities.

She asked if she must forgive. I still do not know of an adequate answer, but I told her that when she forgave, she did not give up her right to justice. She only gave up her right to judgment and gave that to Jesus, to whom it rightly belonged. I told her she would see justice with her own eyes at the Final Judgment, and that justice would be more terrible than anything she could ever imagine. We pray God’s truth will set her free.

Emmaus Center

This is our sixteenth year at the Emmaus Center. They always say, “Welcome home!”—and it is like coming home. The people are loving and welcoming—it’s a little piece of heaven. This major force for good has influenced not only Uganda, but countries all around Africa. Most of the CCR leaders we have encountered in Uganda were formed by Emmaus’ programs.

While we were there, we spoke with Frances Auno, who lost her young adult daughter last July. It is still a gaping wound. The healing is quiet and hidden, but God is lighting the path one long day and one excruciating step at a time. I am awed by the faith of Frances and her husband. It was a blessing to sit with her and to hear her story. It is always difficult for a community leader to share deeply with those around her, and she felt safe. Thank You, Jesus!

Praise and Thanksgiving

At the beginning of one of our presentations, it began to rain, and it got louder and louder, until it was almost deafening. The rain was a tremendous blessing, as there had been a severe drought for months. In some areas, the people were so hungry, they were boiling leaves from trees to stay alive.

Therefore, we decided to praise the Lord in thanksgiving until the rain stopped. The praises of God rose over the leaders. The dancing quickly exploded, with the line of people dancing all through the church. And the rain didn’t stop until the hour was over! Everyone was happy, and many said the praise of God and the much-needed rain was the testimony and the answer from God. We then went to Adoration and Mass.

Holiness

One excellent talk came from Rose Keifer, a CCR interpreter, international speaker, and bestselling author who lives on faith. She is single, but adopted her late sister’s children and other orphans. She is a remarkable woman—an example of the fruit Renewal Ministries has borne in Uganda and throughout the world. She spoke on the universal call to holiness, reminding us that being in the CCR is not about conferences, missions, or saving souls; it is about holiness. She quoted often from Ralph Martin’s book The Fulfillment of all Desire: “Holiness is not an option!” “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his justice and all these things shall be added to you as well” (Mat 6:33).

Holiness does not come from saying rosaries or participating in Jericho marches. Holiness is aligning our will with God’s will and accepting the circumstances He chooses for us. When we focus on anything other than Christ, we become like Martha and start to complain. We try to become God by telling God what to do. We see this in Luke 10:40: “But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’” She was ordering God around! Too often, we do our will in God’s name, not God’s will for us.

I also spoke on practical steps to holiness: repentance, faith, and forgiveness. Repentance is a change in our minds that leads to a change in our actions, not just feeling sorry for something. Sin has two components, rebellion and deception. We can repent of the rebellion, but if we still believe the lie, we will repeat the sin. When we sin again and again and cannot control it, we tend to justify it.

Also, forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. It is a gift we give ourselves; holding on to unforgiveness is like drinking poison while hoping the other person gets sick!

Touching Jesus’ Cloak

Before one of our healing services, Lloyd described when Bishop Sam Jacobs set the monstrance on a small table at the foot of the altar; put candles on the table; knelt behind the table, holding the monstrance; and invited the people to kneel before the Lord and tell Him their needs.

Just like the woman in Scripture who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and was healed, he had people touch the cloth around base of the monstrance and then go to the side of the room for prayer. It was extremely powerful.

Fr. David Byaruhanga, the national CCR spiritual director and an exorcist, wanted to lead his people in prayer that way as well. Fr. David held the monstrance, and they were permitted to touch the cloth around it as they told Jesus their needs. He stood for over an hour, holding Jesus in front of the altar, and people came to speak to Jesus about their problems, touch the hem of His garment, and go to the sides of the church for prayer. Sometime during the service, Fr. David began to tremble, as power went out of him!

We are seeing an increase in healing and freedom in Uganda! Thanks for allowing us to serve.

Mexico Mission Transforms Hearts, Lives

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This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ July 2017 newsletter.

For thirteen years, Renewal Ministries has been taking area high school students on a mission trip to Mexico, where they minister to people who live in a garbage dump, visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and spend time at a home for special needs orphans and at government-run facility for elderly men. About thirty students went on this year’s mission.

“It’s grown to be a part of the school’s culture,” said Debbie Herbeck, who assists Renewal Ministries’ Country Coordinator Jim Murphy during the trips with the students from Father Gabriel Richard High School (FGR) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The school faculty also made its second mission trip to Mexico this summer. “The mindset is: ‘This is what we do: We care for others.’”

“The students who go get more deeply evangelized,” she continued. “You see freedom and joy on their faces as they give themselves away for a week. Also, the ability to disconnect from their teenage world—they have to leave their phones at home—is life-changing. It teaches them to communicate face to face with others, to be present and attentive, to listen, to love.”

The week begins with a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“We dedicate our mission to Our Lady, tell the story of what happened there, and climb up Tepayak Hill as Juan Diego did,” said Debbie, “it’s no longer just a story, but a message for us too. The Virgin Mary appeared, and within ten years, eight million native Mexicans were converted, baptized, and came into the Church. Now, the Lord and Mary are sending us to share the same message.’”

One of the services Renewal Ministries offers in the dump is a basic medical tent. Since mission teams return to the site every few months, medical personnel are able to distribute medicine for things like high blood pressure, diabetes, and thyroid problems. The team also distributes clothing, shoes, and toiletries for the people living in the dump. The students’ fundraising efforts also allow for the purchase of two tons of food, for almost 1,000 people. The team also offers haircuts; spends time playing and doing some catechesis with the children; and provides prayer ministry and—thanks to a priest on the team—offers Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

In addition to playing soccer or coloring with the children, the youth also practice the “ministry of presence,” said Debbie. They learn to notice people who may be sitting on the outskirts—people who may just need someone to sit with them, hold their hand, and listen: “We’re there to love, to show them they are valued, and also that they have much to teach us,” she explained.

Unfortunately, a fire completely destroyed thirty “homes” and the roof of their handcrafted chapel just two days before the team’s arrival this year. Thankfully, the team learned about the fire in time to have each member pack a tarp and rope—enough to provide some shelter to each family that lost a home. Donations also came in for a new roof, and the team was present to pray as the chapel was re-dedicated.

The team also visited an orphanage that is home to 230 mentally handicapped children and young adults. According to Debbie, when you are with Mother Inez, who started the home fifty years ago, you have the clear sense that you are in the presence of a saint. Mother Inez, now in her early nineties, spoke and prayed individually with the students.

Debbie described the most moving part of their visit:

As the students gathered around Mother Inez, she told them, ‘I won’t be here much longer; my time on earth is almost done. I am asking you and pleading with you to carry on the work I’ve begun.’

This was more than a plea to continue visiting the orphanage. She was commissioning the students to be disciples of love in the world. In fact, the reading the next morning was Jesus’ commissioning of the apostles. Many students were deeply touched by her message and heard the Lord personally call them. I felt the Lord gave a few of them His heart for the poor and for love in a very significant way.

The team also visited a home for elderly men who have no families. Debbie explained, “It is very moving for these men to have young people want to spend time with them, listen to their stories, and pray with them. In a place that sees little joy or hope, we livened it up with dancing and singing Disney songs. One young woman on our team had recently experienced the death of her grandpa, and it was very healing for her to talk and pray with these men. There were so many ways God was present and caring for us throughout the week.”

At the end of the week, the team gathered to pray for a deeper outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. “After a week of encountering Christ in the poor and one another in such a profound way, everyone was open to a deeper anointing of the Holy Spirit,” said Debbie. “That night, in the ‘upper room,’ our meeting place at the top of our hotel, the Holy Spirit came, and began to prepare these young disciples for the mission ahead of them back home—in their own families, friendships, and schools.”

The lessons from Mexico, and God’s work in and through them, stay with many students for the rest of their lives, said Debbie:

“They encounter Jesus in the poor, and they learn, in very simple yet profound ways, what it means to be His love to others. It gives them a window into the potential of who God is calling them to be and opens their eyes and hearts to a world that desperately needs to know God’s love—through them. It also gives them a genuine experience of what it means to be a community of missionary disciples. This deep connection with one another is what they desperately desire.”

University of Michigan junior Lauren Yurko exemplifies the impact the Mexico mission can have on a student’s life. Because of her time in Mexico, Lauren added Spanish to her Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience major. She feels called to do mission work and wants to be better able to converse with people—something she hadn’t considered before her trip.

Lauren recalls three experiences with people in the dump that she reflects on nearly every single day. The first was with a boy named Alexís, who offered her a sip of his water—even though he hadn’t seen fresh water in months. The second was with children who used their bubble solution—a precious and rare toy—to help wash her face, after she had let them paint on her skin. And the third was with a girl named Lupe, who—after other children were flocking to Lauren to ask for cheese, when she was cutting it for sandwiches—said she didn’t want the cheese; she only wanted to sit with Lauren, because she looked a bit stressed out. While Lauren sliced cheese, the girl sat with her, braided her hair, and rubbed her back.

In each instance, “they were giving everything they had for me and not focusing on themselves,” said Lauren. “The joy I experience in the dump changed who I want to be. Every day, I think about how they had so little and gave so much. It’s inspired me to live more simply and to give whatever I have—to look out for people, to serve my community, and to be more of a friend to people.”

Lessons from Mexico: Rich in Love

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Mary Benz gives gave Giovanni a “caballito” (a piggy back ride).

This post originally appeared on Be Love Revolution’s blog.

By Mary Benz

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a mission trip to Mexico City. Both of my parents and my two older siblings had gone and I expected it to be a life-changing experience. But I couldn’t anticipate the way that my heart would be broken out of love for each person I encountered and how these encounters would change my outlook on my life.

We spent three days in the garbage dump, where thousands of people live and work every day, and from the first moment when I gave Giovanni a “caballito” (a piggy back ride), I experienced total freedom to love and be loved. These people have none of the things we often value as most important—money, homes, possessions, important careers, or status. Yet I have never experienced such rich and radical love as they welcomed each of us into their lives with loving, open arms. I never once worried about what I looked like or if I was saying the right thing, which I often worry about at home. These people just loved me, and despite their horrific conditions, they exuded pure joy and thoughtfulness. The way that these people love broke my heart, because although they have nothing, they love with a generosity and lavishness, while I who have much more, often love less.

Continue reading here.

Mission Rwanda: A Dream Come True

Lianna Mueller ministering to an elder at the Palative Care Hospital Kigali, Rwanda 2016
Lianna Mueller ministers to an elder at the Palative Care Hospital in Kigali, Rwanda.

By Lianna Mueller

In November of 2016, I had the most incredible experience of my life. I went with Renewal Ministries on a mission trip to Rwanda, led by the dynamic duo Lloyd and Nancy Greenhaw. Going on the trip was the fruit of years of prayers, tears, being immersed in other cultures, and faith. All glory be to God for the miraculous way in which He paved the way for the Rwanda trip to happen!

I had been interested in mission work for many years. There are many great organizations serving the material needs of people. This is very important and a tenet of our faith. However, I was grieved to find that many organizations do not spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or do not even allow the sharing of one’s faith. From sea to sea, and the islands in between, people are yearning for Christ. People are literally dying every day without having heard the Gospel. Not only that, people are living lives without purpose. They are living life without hope. They are eating the lie that so many societies feed that there is no God, or that God is irrelevant. They have no idea of why they are here on this earth, Who has created them and loves them and desires to spend a joyful eternity with Him. The ache for the Lord and the need for healing is present in every nation. It is my love for the people of every nation and my love for Christ that compelled me to seek out mission work.

Originally I heard about Ralph Martin and Renewal Ministries from my father, years ago. As a charismatic Catholic, I was seeking other Catholics on fire for the Kingdom. I also prayed that one day I would have the opportunity to go on a mission. I had experienced Christ’s healing love in a powerful way. My heart ached to be able to share that love with my brothers and sisters in other nations. In 2015, I attended my first Gathering. Each Gathering has been miraculous in its own way. In 2016, a miracle of God’s provision occurred through a fellow attendee of the Gathering. The door opened for me to attend a mission. My heart overflowed with gratitude. My heart had been in Africa for years, though I still had never set foot there. Plans were made to go to Rwanda.

The Holy Spirit worked marvelously in each area of the mission. For me, the experience was a taste of heaven on earth! This taste came from the smooth flights, to the friendships made and the way in which the team worked together and complemented each other, to seeing God’s hand at work in those we ministered to. We witnessed and heard of many healings of marriages. Many people also had deep-rooted issues related to the genocide, and we prayed with them using the Unbound method. They discovered the grace to forgive, which eased a burden from their lives and healed relationships. Sometimes we heard of instant healings of relationships, such as an unexpected visit or phone call from the other person shortly after prayer! I had the impromptu opportunity to preach to street boys in a shelter, and I pray they know the fullness of God’s love. We were also invited to pray with people at a palliative care center, people suffering unspeakably with various ailments. The people were so grateful. One elderly woman even found the strength to dance with us! What an unforgettable experience. I can’t wait to dance together again in heaven! God’s grace truly abounds in the beautiful country of Rwanda, possessing not only a magnificent landscape, but also resilient people able to turn to God and keep faith even after the most terrible tragedy.

My trip to Rwanda confirmed to me that I would like to continue mission work, perhaps even living abroad as a missionary at a later point. I am now pursuing a master’s degree in counseling, with the goal of combining therapeutic knowledge and techniques with faith. I know this will come in handy on the mission field. My current work is service to refugee women and children. For now, I am continuing my pursuit of mission work in whatever form the Lord sets in front of me, whether it be to a refugee at work, someone I meet at the store, or a close loved one. I look forward to the day I can again serve Him in Africa, or wherever He pleases. I am forever blessed for the trip to Rwanda with Renewal Ministries and for the fruit borne by their work!