Tag: Tom Edwards

Tanzania Outreach Bears Much Fruit

A member of our mission team ministers to people during a time of prayer.

By Tom Edwards, Renewal Ministries’ Country Coordinator

Renewal Ministries has made twenty mission forays in seventeen dioceses into the vast country of Tanzania. We have introduced renewal events with several days of outdoor Catholic rallies every time. We also have visited some of the dioceses multiple times.

Bishop Beatus Christian Urassa invited us to serve in Sumbawanga, a town (and diocese) in the far-western reaches of Tanzania. Our team included brothers and sisters from across the US and the world, including Nairobi, Slovakia, Kenya, and Tanzania.

The name of the town “Sumbawanga” literally translates as “throw away your witchcraft.” This originated with local spiritual healers who wanted to keep away intruding witch doctors. Superstition and the practice of the “dark arts” are still prevalent in the area. The town is famous for the practice of witchcraft; to be a witchdoctor from Sumbawanga is a claim to fame, a boast that appears in Internet ads.

Our schedule included ten days of intense ministry in outdoor Catholic preaching rallies, and daily workshops on Catholic faith, youth, and young adult ministry. Our family life workshop was of special interest to Bishop Beatus and the vicar general. It featured intense teaching on the evils of abortion, the consequences of contraceptives, Natural Family Planning, and the basic principles of Theology of the Body.

When we arrived, we learned that the retreats we had planned for religious sisters and priests had been cancelled due to opposition. There are two large orders of sisters in the diocese who had been told by their superiors that any sister attending our events would immediately “lose their veil.”

Although disappointed, we immediately put the matter to prayer and the Lord’s providence. Our team moved into “Plan B” mode. The Lord did not disappoint. The people of Sumbawanga and far-reaching areas were like dry sponges thirsting for God. People from surrounding towns came with their families and slept on the grounds of the two local parishes, caring for their children and cooking on open fires. The response to all of our events was beyond anything we had imagined for a first-time effort like this.

I want to share with you our team members’ responses regarding this mission:

“God´s presence was overwhelming. People were touched by Jesus in a powerful way. About 2000 people were present on Sunday. Every day, more and more people listened to God´s Word. On Wednesday, there were about 4000 people; on Friday, many more; and on Saturday, more than 5000 people attended, hungry for the living God. Every day, people gave testimonies of physical healing. They spoke of being filled with God’s presence and love. Many were delivered from evil spirits as God poured out grace like waves into their dry hearts. How hungry they were! His Word was like an oasis in the desert. You could see smiles and joy on their faces. Many sat in the dust, some under trees, and some up in trees. I met young people hungry for God´s love. They had so many questions about forgiveness. God touched their hearts incredibly and led them to forgive.” —Bohdan Novak

“One thing that moved me was the openness of school children we visited. They discovered they could love because God had loved them first. We prayed for them, asking God to fill their hearts with His love. They came to hear God’s message with joy. They responded well when prayed with for inner healing. They prepared their hearts by surrendering all to Jesus, and then they invited the Holy Spirit into their hearts. God started a great work in them, and I am sure He will continue it.” —Sr. Damiana

“At the afternoon rally, I was touched by the faith, joy, and gratitude of a man whose liver was completely healed. For a while, he was dancing and praising God. His whole liver was infected and swollen. He spent most of his income for treatment with different doctors without success, because the infection kept coming back. The Lord healed him completely. His doctor testified this as well when he went for another checkup.” —Sr. Mary Justin

“This marked my seventeenth journey to Africa in twenty years. What impressed me the most were the similarities of the people today with those living in New Testament times. I reflect on journeys of the Holy Family to Jerusalem, the birth of Jesus, the presentation in the temple, and the finding of the lost child in the temple. We witnessed hundreds of people who traveled great distances by foot and other difficult means to arrive at the church grounds to set up camp for two weeks. They built fires, prepared and ate meals, washed clothes, and slept on the ground and floor so they could attend the daily workshops and rallies. Truly, a faith-filled people!” —John Mathe

Family Life Ministry

Never before in Tanzania have we seen so many babies and children! Hundreds of babies were in attendance at every event, and the cathedral was constantly overflowing. In Sumbawanga, one of the poorest areas economically in Tanzania, life is precious. Young women consider childbirth a sign of maturity and prestige. Most all women have ten to twelve children.

Jean Marie Edwards shared the following reflections:

“I think it will take me many months to fully comprehend the depths of God’s love and works amongst His people in Sumbawanga. The hunger for Him was so powerful. Surely, the Lord satisfied that hunger with abundance.

“In every workshop, every rally, every divine appointment, God was powerfully present and dwelt in each and every soul. Their eyes, faces, and entire beings showed their grateful hearts to their God for what they were learning and experiencing. His presence was so real and so beautiful.

“The prayers were raw and honest, and the youth prayed them with all their hearts while tears streamed down their faces. They prayed not only for themselves but for the others. They opened their minds and hearts deeply to their God and in turn were touched by the very heart of God. Such love!

“I want to thank you again for all you do, especially in making sure we always have the (fetal models frequently used on our missions to help participants gain a more clear understanding of the various stages of life within the womb) to take and leave with the people. Words can’t do justice to the power they have. The Lord pours Himself out through them. I am in awe every single time we show them. Being able to leave them is huge. It is another way Renewal Ministries deeply, deeply touches the hearts of God’s people everywhere. It is going to be so awesome in heaven to see face-to-face all the babies and their families that were given life because of how the Lord uses these little models.”

Discovering the Magi

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By Tom Edwards, Renewal Ministries’ Country Coordinator

I’ve been doing a fresh study on the Wise Men who brought gifts to the child Jesus. Much of what we are led to believe about them has little basis in fact. Rather, they are usually portrayed according to what artists, Christmas card writers, and the makers of Crèche sets fancied them to be. All that we know with certainty about their origin is recorded in Matthew 2:1-2: “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”

Some Old Testament passages, as well as studies of other ancient writings, may give us insight into who these men were and why they came to seek out the newborn King. It is a fact that the very word “Magi” is an untranslatable word that can be traced back to being the name of an ancient priestly tribe dating to the time of Abraham. The word Magi eventually became corrupted, so that in English, it became more associated with “magic” and “magicians.” Indeed, the priestly tribe of the Magi was occult in nature. They excelled in astronomy, a science, but with an admixture of astrology, forbidden religion. They were very wise and far beyond others in mathematics, agriculture, and architecture. Their wisdom was renowned, and they became the counselors of kings in the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and even the Roman Empires. They were also able to practice the dark spirit arts, read dreams, foretell events, etc.

These Magi, magicians, were very powerful in the time of Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon. One could not be a king without their approval. At that point in history, the Hebrew people were taken captive to Babylon and enslaved for seventy years. Some of the Hebrew lads were recognized as very clever, as well as uncompromisingly devout to their God. The most notable was Daniel, called a man with a “more excellent spirit.”

King Nebuchadnezzar had a terrifying dream and the “wise men” were called with the following results: “When the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and diviners had come in, I related the dream before them; but none of them could tell me its meaning. Finally there came before me Daniel, whose name is Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is a spirit of the holy gods. I repeated the dream to him: ‘Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that a spirit of the holy gods is in you and no mystery is too difficult for you; this is the dream that I saw, tell me its meaning’” (Dan 4:4-6). Daniel was the one gifted to interpret this and other terrifying dreams. Ultimately, this would lead to the conversion of the king, who would bow the knee before the God of Israel. Note that Daniel was elevated to be the master over all the magicians and wise men. It only stands to reason that Daniel would school them in the Sacred Scriptures of his God. Some would be converted and their intense spirituality, knowledge, and ancient wisdom would be passed down. The Magi tribe, this priestly people, passed on the priesthood through heredity, much like the Levitical tribe of the Jews. Thus, they would be schooled as sensitive prophets awaiting the promised Messiah of Daniel and his people. When a sign in the sky was given, their spirits recognized the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and some launched out fully prepared to welcome the King of all Kings.

Matthew 2 goes on to tell us that King Herod was troubled when he learned that the Magi were inquiring about a new king. Remember, the Magi were known as “king makers.” Herod asked them about the precise time of the sighting of the star. He hypocritically feigns an intention to go and pay homage to this new king. Their answer results in his declaration to kill all the males born in the last two years in the Bethlehem region. The Magi once again see the star and are led to a home, not a stable. The Scripture tells us that Mary and the Child were there. If we dare to read between the lines, it seems that perhaps a couple of years have passed since the birth of Jesus. The Magi bow in humble adoration and present treasure of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Much has been speculated about the symbolism of these gifts. Suffice it to say, the treasure certainly would have enabled the Holy Family to escape to Egypt and live until Herod’s death.

Matthew 2:11 tells us the Wise Men “offered” their gifts. The Greek word translated “offered” is the word “prospherō.” The New Testament speaks seven times of a religious offering—an offering of worship. These men were wise and powerful. They were among the most learned men on earth, sacrificing much to travel to this little house and bow down in adoration. There is much to learn from them about giving gifts. Their giving of things flowed out of their giving of self. That’s a necessary ingredient of true worship. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him worship in Spirit and truth.

As St. John Chrysostom tells us, “The rich man is not the one who has much, but the one who gives much. For what one gives away, he keeps for eternity.”

Jesus said it this way: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Mt 6:19-21).

May Living Water Flow from Our Hearts

By Tom Edwards, Renewal Ministries’ Country Coordinator

“Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'” (Jn 7:38).

Jesus cried out the words above on the last day of the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. It was an announcement of great joy on a day that commemorated the deliverance of Israel from the desert in which they had wandered for forty years. The crossing of the River Jordan into the promised land was a gift of the highest order. Now Jesus speaks of another river—an amazing internal spiritual river—a river that is given! It is quite clear who qualifies to receive this “living river,” and how. John follows with a comment that leaves no doubt exactly what this “living water” is—it is the Holy Spirit that is to be given. This “living water” will be given to anyone that thirsts for it, comes to Jesus, and drinks. It is given to “anyone who believes in Jesus!”

Jesus stresses the fact that this “water (the Spirit)” is “given” (thus it flows into the believer), but Jesus equally stresses that this “water (the Spirit)” will flow out of the one who receives. The water is given so that in turn it may flow out to others! This is the great secret to living a dynamic Spirit-filled life. This is God’s plan for reaching out to a world that is like multitudes thirsting in the desert. Sadly, it seems that many who receive the miraculous water of the Holy Spirit do not realize that they are to be a source of refreshment to others. Rather than being like the Sea of Galilee, which receives and gives off the waters of the Jordan (a sea which teems with life), they remain as the “Dead Sea,” which receives, never flows, and supports no life.

God’s ways are clear: He gives and gives to us. Our response is to give and give to others. There are innumerable ways to give. As we faithfully give, we keep open the channel to receive evermore. Some would call this way of life “walking in the anointing of the Lord.” Others are touched by the Spirit of God that flows through you. Jesus came out of the Jordan baptized and filled with the Spirit. He received power to overcome the temptations in the wilderness. He stood up and cried out:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (Lk 4:18-19).

That which Jesus received, He freely gave. Those who follow Him will strive to do the same.


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Church Remains Strong in Romania & Slovakia

Tom Edwards - Tom-FIRE rally 4
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.