Tag: missions

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.

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.

Renewal Ministries’ Mission Values

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Country Coordinators and Renewal Ministries’ staff at last year’s annual meeting.

This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ March 2017 newsletter. We are posting it now in honor of the country coordinators who are gathering again this week for their annual meeting. Please keep them in your prayers!

Dear Friends,

In early fall each year, we host a meeting of our Renewal Ministries Country Coordinators. They’re the group of talented and highly dedicated brothers and sisters you read about regularly in our newsletter. They lead the nearly forty international, short-term missions we are able to do each year, thanks to your generous support and prayers.

When we gather for our annual meeting, we often take time to answer a set of key questions about who we are and what Renewal Ministries’ missions are called to do. As part of that process, we take time to look back at our beginnings and to remember what the Lord did to bring us all together. We do this so that we can remember the Lord’s faithfulness and give Him thanks. But we also do it to keep our mission—what we do and why we do it—clear in our minds.

Last year, we took some time to answer the question, “What is it that we value?” That is, what are the distinct values that shape our mission? The conversation we had was clarifying and inspiring. When we finished our discussion, someone suggested that I share some of these values with you, our extended Renewal Ministries family, so you can better understand not only what we do, but why we do what we do the way we do it.

The following are some of the key values we discussed:

 The Apostolate of the Laity

Simply put, this means that we believe what the Second Vatican Council and recent popes have consistently communicated to us: every baptized person is personally called by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit to be directly engaged in the mission of the Church.

“With the Council the hour of the laity truly struck, and many lay faithful, men and women, more clearly understood their Christian vocation, which by its very nature is a vocation to the apostolate” (John Paul II, Apostolicam actuositatem, 2; emphasis mine).

“Since the entire People of God is a people which has been ‘sent,’ the Synod reaffirmed that ‘the mission of proclaiming the word of God is the task of all of the disciples of Jesus Christ based on their Baptism’” (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini).

“In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples . . . Every Christian is chal­lenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization” (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 120).

In a fundamental way, our work is informed by these words. We seek to help identify, equip, and deploy lay leaders who share this conviction and are eager to work in complementarity with clergy and religious to respond to the call of the New Evangelization.

Apostolic Covering

By apostolic covering, we mean working under the authority of the local bishop in whatever country we are serving. We’re convinced that Jesus established a visible church, and that through apostolic succession, He has passed down His authority to the bishops to govern and shepherd their dioceses. The bishop carries the first responsibility for the evangelization of the people within his diocese. We bring our teams only at the invitation and under the blessing of the bishop; we consider it a great gift to serve under right authority and to receive the protection it brings. Our goal is not to build up Renewal Ministries, but to help the bishop, clergy, and lay leaders of the diocese equip their people for the work of ministry.

The Power of the Preached Word

We believe the Lord has called us to preach and to teach His word as the starting point of all our missionary work. We hold it as a value, because we want to constantly remind one another to trust in the words of Jesus and the apostles, and to resist the temptation to “preach ourselves” or “to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word” (2 Cor 4:5,2). Our earnest prayer is that the message we preach would not be “in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit in power” (2 Cor 4:4).

We’re convinced that the Gospel “is the power of God for salvation” (Rom 1:16), that God’s Word “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb 4:12), that “faith comes through hearing, and what is heard is the word of God” (Rom 10:17). This is the only Word that awakens faith, heals, saves, and sets captives free.

With Pope Francis, we affirm that “there can be no true evangelization without the explicit proclamation of Jesus as Lord,” and without “the primacy of the procla­mation of Jesus Christ in all evangelizing work” (Evangelii Gaudium, 110)

And finally, we go to the ends of the earth confident that “the proclamation of and witness to the Gospel are the first service that Christians can render to every person and to the entire human race” (Benedict XVI, Address to the Participants of the International Conference on the Occasion of the 40th Anniversary of the Conciliar Decree “Ad Gentes,” March 11, 2006; emphasis mine).

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit

We believe that we are “living in a privileged moment in the Holy Spirit” (Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 75), when the Church has been led by the Holy Spirit to “the providential rediscovery of her charismatic dimension,” which is “co-essential as it were to the Church’s constitution” and which contributes “to the life, renewal, and sanctification of God’s People” (John Paul II, Meeting with Ecclesial Movements and New Communities, May 30, 1998).

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is the fundamental grace of renewal in our time; it is a renewal of baptismal graces and the experience of a New Pentecost. Pope Francis describes it as “a current of grace in the Church and for the Church” (Address to the 37th National Convocation of the Renewal in the Holy Spirit, June 1, 2014). We believe it’s the grace of a New Pentecost that is meant to energize and empower a whole New Evangelization in our time. It’s a grace not just for a few, but is meant for all. Pope Francis made that abundantly clear when said, “I expect you to share with everyone in the Church the grace of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit” (ibid).

This grace of renewal is fundamental to who we are at Renewal Ministries. Without this “current of grace” there would be no Renewal Ministries. We strive to follow the exhortations of the recent popes, who have discerned the work of the Holy Spirit in our time, and who’ve challenged us to help others open themselves to this grace:

“Be open to Christ, welcome the Spirit, so that a new Pentecost can take place in every community! A new humanity, a joyful one, will arise from your midst; you will again experience the saving power of the Lord and ‘what was spoken to you by the Lord’ will be fulfilled” (John Paul II, “Address to the Bishops of Latin America,” L’Osservatore Romana, October 21, 1992, p. 10, sec. 30).

The Calling and Gifting of Our International Partners

Since our very first mission to Lithuania in the early 1990s, it has been our great privilege to work closely with inspiring clergy, religious, and lay leaders from around the world. We have seen and experienced firsthand the call and gifting the Lord has placed on their lives. We value the gift they have been to us, and the irreplaceable role they play in leading the work of renewal and evangelization in their respective countries.

We respect the leadership, discernment, and responsibility they carry as the primary evangelists of their own countries. To that end, we see our collaboration with them as a work of solidarity in the Lord, a “communion in mission.” Our goal is not to get them to be at the service of our vision, but to accompany them as they respond to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the vision He has placed on their hearts.

These are just some of the values we work hard to keep front and center in our work. Please pray for our brothers and sisters around the world and for our continued collaboration in the years ahead. And, if you ever feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit to join us in mission, please don’t hesitate to call us, at 734-662-1730, ext. 132.

Changing Culture Through Mexico Missions

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By Butch Murphy, Renewal Ministries’ Country Coordinator to Mexico

Our most recent mission to Mexico in June allowed us to once again spend time with Madre Ines, who is in her nineties and runs the orphanage. Her health continues to improve.  She told us “I am in no rush to die, but I am in no rush to live. Now, I only want the will of God.” Mother’s appearance seems to be changing. Her forearms are very thin, but her face is different. Many of her wrinkles are gone, and there seems to be a slight glow emanating from her face. She is radiant . . . literally. There is some beautiful light on her face that defies description. I am not speaking symbolically here—her face is literally glowing with a soft, but beautiful, light.

Many team members got sick this week with digestive issues, fever, chills, and dizziness. Two were so bad, I counseled them to stay home the first day in dump. Both agreed, but openly wept at thought of staying behind.

On our first day at the dump, Jose Guadeloupe met us at the gates. I walked with him to our setup site. I asked if the recent rains were going to make it difficult to work at our location.

He gently smiled, “No there will not be a problem.”

“Is the mud going to be bad in the clinic?” I pressed.

He was now openly grinning, as we turned the corner to our location. He said, “It won’t be a problem, my father.  We’ve made a few changes.”

I stopped in my tracks in disbelief. Since my last visit in April, several improvements have been made at our work location: A well-manicured soccer field has been added. An actual structure has been built on to the side of a chapel, and a cement block floor was added, specifically to be used as our clinic.

“We built this just for you,” Jose Guadeloupe smiled, waving his hand toward the building, “because you come just for us.”

In addition, a swing set has been set up (with no actual swings as of yet), and plants and trees are being raised in buckets for planting in the near future.

They brought a man over, and they introduced him as the “architect” of the new facility. He shook my hand, then excused himself to change into a soccer team uniform. They had been waiting for our arrival to inaugurate the first soccer game on the new field! After Mass, Fr. Paul walked around the field, sprinkling players and facility with holy water. It was well received by all!

I recalled the words of Pope St. John Paul II, echoed by Pope Benedict, calling for a culture of Pentecost. That is what is suddenly evident in the dump—a new culture! Something is different. We are moving beyond survival into something else.

We had Mass each day in the dump. Clothing was distributed in a much more orderly and peaceful way. Our team, though small, worked heroically, and somewhere around 150 people were served by the clinic in those three days.

On Sunday, I reconnected with a man who had needed a prosthetic leg. He is seventy-four years old; works at Estadio Azteca, the large soccer stadium in Mexico City; and uses public transportation to get there. We were able to provide him with the prosthesis through the generous donation of individuals who had met him on a previous Renewal Ministries’ mission. He was moved to tears by their generosity. He says they will always be in his prayers. He looks somber in the photo, because he was trying hard not to cry!

Monday, we went to Holy Trinity parish in Zumpango with Fr. Manuel. Our medical team performed heroically, working non-stop for over three hours to see over sixty patients. While we were there, a strange sign in the sky appeared. It was a rainbow-like circle around the sun. The sun seemed to be like the pupil of an eye. Padre Manuel said God was watching us and was happy we were there.

As I entered US Passport Control on the way home, the agent asked me where I was coming from:

“I was in Mexico, visiting family and friends,” I said, without much thought.

“Where do they live?” The agent inquired.

“In the garbage dump in Mexico City.”  He looked at me at me and said, “What are they doing there?”

“It’s where they work and live.”  It was the only answer I could come up with.

The agent rolled his eyes and handed me back my passport.

That’s really what this mission has come down to: sharing the experience of the Kingdom with one another, for the glory of the Father and the good of all people. This is not about “works,” but about relationships with God and His children.

Thank you very much for your generosity and support!

Join Monthly Telephone Rosary for Missions

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Join us in a monthly rosary for Renewal Ministries’ mission work! Renewal Ministries’ supporters Mike and Kathleen O’Donnell have offered to lead a rosary over the phone on the first Tuesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. ET. We will pray for Renewal Ministries’ international mission trips for that month, and the outreach being done by Ralph Martin, Sr. Ann Shields, Peter Herbeck, Pete Burak, Dr. Mary Healy, and Debbie Herbeck. The first rosary will take place on June 6. The rosary for July will take place on the second Tuesday, July 11.

Kathleen said the Holy Spirit inspired her with the idea after hearing country coordinators discuss mission trips at the 2017 Gathering.

“While praying the rosary in my room, I thought about all the people that can’t go on a mission trip for various reasons. I was especially thinking about the missions to areas in which there is danger involved, and all the challenges faced by those trying to bring Christ or further the kingdom in these distant lands,” Kathleen said. “Since Mary is the vessel that brought and brings Jesus to others, I thought that, once a month, we could have a special conference call rosary to pray for the success and safety of the upcoming trips. I thought dedicated prayer for these trips would be helpful, because the enemy hates them, and I’m sure tries to lay plans to divert their success.”

The couple has been leading similar conference-call rosaries for individual’s intentions weekly for two-and-a-half years. Because of the nature of a conference call, and the time delays that can happen when people talk, Kathleen leads the prayer and others join in silently or by muting their phone so that they can pray out loud. Before each rosary, Kathleen shares different meditations on the mysteries being prayed that month. Participants are welcome to stay on the line for the entire rosary, or for as many decades as they have time for.

“A lot of people can’t go into the mission field, but everyone can pray,” Kathleen added. “When people join, they feel connected. That is a beautiful part of the fruit.”

To join in, simply make a phone call. Dial 712-775-7031 and enter code 665-735-271 #. If you call before the line is open, you will hear music playing. Please stay on the line until the rosary begins! The line usually opens at 7:25 p.m. ET.

You may join us for a decade or the entire rosary! It usually takes about twenty-five minutes to pray the whole rosary.

(This call is long distance, unless you are using a plan with unlimited long distance or a cell phone.)

Thank you to Kathleen and to all who pray for Renewal Ministries and our mission work! Your prayers bear untold fruit!

(If you are interested in the rosary Kathleen leads every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET, simply follow the directions above to join in! If you would like her to include your intentions, please email them to her by noon on Wednesday, at kodonnell613@comcast.net.)