2019 Women’s Retreat Repost

“The fields are white unto harvest…”
John 4:35

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;  therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Matthew 9:37-38

The 2019 Diocesan Womens’ Retreat was themed around the mission of evangelism. Not natural evangelism, but rather supernatural evangelism. The mission given to us by Jesus to go and make disciples, is an impossible task. It is daunting, immense, limitless, and unapproachable without divine intervention. Even the most outgoing individual may find themselves making no headway. There has been more than one top-notch pastor asking themselves “Why don’t the people come flocking?” The ministry of evangelism requires a surgeon’s steady touch and an eagle’s longsighted vision.

The only hope we have of helping the sinner to navigate the obstacles to salvation, is to ask for the eagle eyes and the surgeon hands of the Holy Spirit. Charismatic evangelism is Spirit-led. He decides who we speak to and when we speak. Rather than bombarding the lost with ceaseless invitations and condemnations, we allow the Spirit to speak through us.
Three stream evangelism is fulfilled as we celebrate and inundate the evangelistic with the sacraments. Bringing the lost to the church and allowing the sacraments to flow in and through them. Confession, Eucharist, Baptism, the apostolic office, etc. all have a role to play in the renewing work of the Spirit and the saving work of Jesus Christ alive today and reigning forevermore.

The retreat was lead by the Bishop’s wife, Sarah and several other women from the Cathedral Church. Teaching, ministry, prayer, and praise were the unified practice of the ladies as they came away from their everyday lives to that most noble pursuit, namely seeking God.

God thoroughly blessed this retreat from start to finish. Where there was tension, He released peace, where there was trepidation, boldness, and when He spoke, many heard.  Below are several quotes from women who were blessed on retreat this year.

“Feeling I’m not alone in my struggles and that I can relate with those who’ve been walking with the Lord
way longer than me…gave me even more peace with where I’m at right now and that pressing in will
only strengthen my relationship with (God)!”

“The amount of love, acceptance, and support we all seem to have for one another even without
knowing everyone is absolutely wonderful.”

“Knowing a priest would be available for confession help set the tone up front for getting serious with the
Lord.”

The retreat will be held again in Fall 2020 November 19-21 at Sandy Cove Resort. If you would like to get information as the retreat approaches, please signup for email at www.riversmerge.org

Hagiography I

I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true
This occasional series is an introduction to brothers & sisters
who have gone on before us.
Who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew
A few will be familiar.  Many more will be strangers.
Each has unique graces & perspectives.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,
& one was a shepherdess on the green
They cheer us on as we run the Great Race.
I hope you come to love them.
They were all of them saints of God and I mean, God helping, to be one too.

Mary of Egypt was a fifth-century desert ascetic.  She was a harlot beginning from age twelve, leaving her parents and journeying to Alexandria, where she lived completely in accordance with her passions for 17 years.  She sought out sexual relations with any and all available men—even those unwilling–refusing money and making her living by begging and spinning flax. She joined a group of pilgrims bound for Jerusalem, intentionally seducing the men as they traveled.  Once there everyone entered the sanctuary to celebrate the Exaltation of the Cross, except for Mary, who was barred by an unseen force. Shaken, she came to repentance and after finally entering the church, fled into the desert.  

She lived alone, eating what she could find and enduring the open elements, for 17 years fighting her desires and passions before finally breaking through into the peace of God.  Thirty years later the priest Zosima came across her by accident while praying in the desert, seeing a naked thing but not knowing whether she was human or animal or demonic apparition.  With much reluctance and fear she recounted her life story, while manifesting graces such as words of knowledge about him and his life, walking across the Jordan river, and levitating in his presence during prayer.  God alone had known that within this drunken harlot had been hidden the greatest of desert Mothers.

What can we take away from all this?  First of all, Mary fought her flesh with savage fervor, undergoing an incredible purging as she battled her desires for food and wine and lewdness, going from darkness through darkness and misery through more misery until finally breaking forth into the peace of God, constantly praying to the Blessed Virgin for help.  While there was certainly demonic attack, she recognized that her battle was first and foremost against her passions.  

A second lesson for us was her strong reluctance to speak of her past sinfulness.  This was not an aversion to testifying to the mercy of God. She recognized her passions as restrained but not removed, and was terrified lest even speaking of them would bring them to life again.  We sometimes strive for years against besetting sins before one day finding God’s victory. Yet while those old holds are broken, wisdom demands that we always tread those areas with care. They are knives waiting in darkness, sharp and glistening, and we must always walk circumspectly lest we fall again.  An alcoholic is always in recovery. To forget that invites death.  

Finally, note her extreme humility.  She manifested such extraordinary graces as words of knowledge and prophecy, translocation, levitation during prayer, walking across the Jordan river, and surviving for many years with virtually no food or water in the most inhospitable conditions, yet all the while knowing her absolute dependence on the grace of God and relying on Him in a way that few of us will experience.  

Information has been gratefully taken from the following websites:  Orthodox Church of America; St. Mary of Egypt Orthodox Church (there is a wonderful narrative here); CopticChurchNet; Mystogogy Resource Center; Glory to God for All Things; Orthowiki.

 

News From Kenya

A new church flourishes with a new tent! Bishop Chunge sends his thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A fasting and Prayer Event at Esumeyia C.E.C. Church includes young and old alike.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below are more videos of fasting and praise events, including a video of two birds that were causing continuous havoc and were killed through prayer. Bishop Chunge thanks the believers in Bel Air for a keyboard that is obviously used to great effect in worship.

Are You On Mission?

Bishop Rob Northwood July 7, 2019

Christians are a people on mission. The Christian mission is to make visible the Kingdom of God while reconciling men to God and one another. The Patriarch has called us this year to focus on Convergence Evangelism. Jesus, in Luke’s gospel (chapter 10) sends out His disciples on mission, two by two, into the cities and into places He Himself was about to go. Not unlike John the Baptist, they, as forerunners, would go ahead and stir up spiritual things where He wanted to work.

The harvest is great. (Luke 10:2) There is a literal world of people waiting to hear the gospel-  The Good News. The news that God has brought salvation and is forgiving and is not angry. To understand the concept of this great harvest, you might imagine that suddenly you alone were responsible to go out and manually harvest every crop in your entire county. You would begin to realize the amount of labor required to bale each bale and cut every stalk by hand. The tricky thing about a harvest is that you MUST bring it in when it’s ready. It’s not going to stand in the field forever.

Herein lies the problem- the laborers are few. (Luke 10:2)  Jesus commands His people to pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers into the harvest. He tells us to call for help. If we’re on mission, then we are all laborers. It’s His harvest. It’s His mission. He says, “Go your way, I’m sending you out as lambs among wolves.” (10:3) This is a battle of unusual combatants. You don’t usually see wolves being confronted by lambs, but rather the other way around. This teaching begins to sound like a sendoff into enemy territory. Jesus’ message is that you don’t need to take money and provision, but rather, you must learn to trust God to lead you to the place you must go and trust that He will provide. If you go to a house and there’s peace there, stay there. You are a laborer and a laborer is worthy of his hire. We aren’t paid by men, but by God. It’s His harvest.

Christians are to go and proclaim this fact: the Kingdom of God is here! Whether those who hear receive it or not, the fact is, the Kingdom of God has come. Heal the sick and tell them that the Kingdom of God is come. Healing is a big deal, especially if you’re the one that get’s healed. This said, in the kingdom, healing is not as big a deal as you would think. In His hometown, Jesus says He couldn’t do much, but “only heal a few people.” (Mark 6:5). He sees it as a minimal event. Why? Because what He wants to do is save you forever! Just because your headache or disease is gone, doesn’t mean you have eternal life.

The disciples return with joy saying, “Even the demons are subject to us in your name!” Jesus obviously has a heart for these cities and the lost and tormented souls within, but even as they rejoice that the demons are subject and healing is abundant, He tells them that that’s not why they should rejoice. He is seeing the Kingdom from another vantage point. Similar to when he said to Nathaniel, “I saw you sitting under the fig tree before you ever came to me.” (John 1), He says here, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning.” He sees the reversal of the Garden’s curse. He sees the reversal of authority stolen in the fall. He gives them the authority to trample on serpents. The actions they take are immense because Satan himself is shaken as they plunder the strongman’s house. Yet again, he says that this isn’t the biggest thing. He is moved more by the salvation of the disciples and to those whom they proclaim the Good News. He says, “Never-the-less rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

The work of the church is outside the church walls. The battle is outside the walls. First you must be sent, and then you must go. Part of evangelism is helping those bound up, to get free of what’s binding them up. Don’t worry about the people who think you’re crazy, worry about what you’re gonna do when they think you have the answer, when they believe you’re right. Something our Bishop Davidson frequently says is that you have to have a place to stand, to run. You need a base of operations, a church that you can be established in, from which to be sent out and to return. We aren’t guilty if we try and fail and we aren’t credited if all goes well. That’s the security that is provided being under the church’s authority.
Here’s what you can do to get on mission: pray for the mission of the church. We aren’t trying to build a bigger church. We are trying to depopulate Hell. A healthy church is a church that is depopulating hell, and a healthy church grows. If we are on mission we will grow and then plant another church and another church. So pray for this parish and her mission.

Give your time. The church will always have mouths to feed, toilets to clean, and floors to sweep. Don’t miss your calling by assuming that others will do the work without you. Get on mission. Give your time.

Learn to testify. Testify of what Jesus is doing and has done in your life. Testify about how He has set you free. We, as Christians, are called to grow, not just be planted, but to grow and keep growing. We must learn to know His voice. The sheep should know the voice of the Shepherd. The more you come to know His voice, the less likely the enemy will be to insert his own counterfeit.

Another thing we do is to share the gospel. To read it has power; To speak it has power and to digest it is most significant.

Are you on mission? One way you can determine this is to consider whether your decision to attend a church meeting is based on whether it personally benefits you. Are you avoiding Bible study Class because you don’t feel like you are going to benefit? A good person comes to the Healing Service to receive and be healed. A good Christian comes to the Healing Service to help others grow and to give of themselves. You should be determining your involvement based on your ability to give and build. Participate in the work of the church. When a person is going through hard times and they receive a meal or a card, that is a tangible sign of the love of God in their lives.

The harvest is ready. The workers are few. This is the mission. Are you on mission? Go forth into the world, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit!