In March I had the opportunity to again attend the Ash Wednesday Mass in Rome led by Pope Francis as a part of an ecumenical delegation. Our diverse team of eight included Presbyterians, Methodists, one Anglican priest, and me—the undercover Baptist. Our time in Rome was fantastic. The weather was perfect, the food extraordinary, and I can only describe the fellowship as a taste of what’s to come in the Heavenly City. Each of our team members are part of the Dunamis Project which works to teach people how to cooperate with what the Holy Spirit is already doing in order to advance the Kingdom of God. Some of the things we encountered while in Rome were quite surprising… in a good way!
The purpose of our trip was to begin conversations with leaders in the Roman Catholic Church and find common ground and work together without compromising truth. Thankfully the Lord has opened my eyes to how He is working in this branch of the church, and I am happy to work side by side with any of our Catholic brothers and sisters. We described many of our meetings as a “first date”, and our hosts were very gracious. With so much I could write about from this trip, I’d like to focus on two specific meetings that were highlights for me.
The first meeting was with the Director of the International Office of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the Vatican, Mr. Oresto Persare. It was an absolute joy. This movement of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal began in 1967 and they just celebrated their Golden Jubilee (50th Anniversary). To commemorate this event, Pope Francis spoke at the Circus Maximus, the track from the Ben Hur Chariot race, where many early Christians were killed. Here is an excerpt from his speech translated into English:
“Today there are more martyrs than yesteryear! Today there are more martyrs, Christians. Those who kill Christians, before killing them, do not ask, ‘Are you Orthodox? Are you Catholic? Are you Evangelical? Are you Lutheran? Are you Calvinist?’ No. ‘Are you Christian?’ ‘Yes’ — then your throat is cut, immediately. Today there are more martyrs than in the early times. And this is the ecumenism of blood: we are united by the witness of our martyrs of today. In several parts of the world Christian blood is being shed! Today the unity of Christians is more urgent than ever, united by the work of the Holy Spirit, in prayer and in action for the weakest. Walk together, work together. Love each other. Love each other. And together seek to explain the differences, agree, but on the path! If we stay still, without walking, we will never, ever agree. This is how it is, the Holy Spirit wants us to be on the move.”
There is a movement in many branches of the Church pushing for reconciliation; I’ve seen it here in Prague. When the number of orthodox (Little “o”) believers are few and the culture around us is growing more hostile to the Gospel then our differences seem to fade away and what unites us becomes much more important. There are many differences between what I believe in contrast to a born-again Catholic (Orthodox Catholic as they call themselves), but we agree on the Trinity and we agree that Jesus’ died as an atoning sacrifice that covers all our sins. With that in common, I believe we are called to work together for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. I am not a huge fan of the current Pope for a few reasons, however, after hearing the things he has said about reconciliation and unity in the body of Christ, I am liking him more and more.
The other meeting that was a highlight for me was with a delegation of priests representing Father Francesco Barmonte, president of the International Association of Exorcists (AIE). I am involved with inner healing and deliverance ministry here in Prague, and the spiritual warfare surrounding this type of ministry is very intense. For this reason your prayers of protection for me are so invaluable. We talked with these priests who are some of the top exorcists at the Vatican, and we both shared some stories about our encounters with people under demonic oppression. My impression was at first they seemed a bit skeptical of us, but once we started sharing stories and asking questions the atmosphere in the room became very Spirit-filled. They offered sound advice and were very glad to know that we were on the same page with this type of work. As they put it, “The need is so great and there are so few of us doing it.”
In May I will travel to Belarus and Estonia with a Dunamis team teaching about healing ministry and spiritual warfare. Please be in continual prayer for us! In addition to your prayers, we need financial support to continue to be able to work in these countries; airfare continues to go up, and unfortunately the exchange rate for the Dollar and Euro—by which the value of the Czech Crown is affected—is not as favorable as it once was. The cost of living in Prague is on the rise as well. While it is not as expensive as Paris or Amsterdam, as the city grows the cost of living increases with it. In all of these things, we rest assured of the promise that God is faithful to equip us to do what He calls us to do.
I appreciate every one of you! Thank you for being a part of our team. We could not continue to do this work without your support, it means the world to us. May your Holy Week be filled with reflection on the sacrifice of our Savior and the joy found in His resurrection as death no longer has a hold over us. To quote the lyrics from Handel’s Messiah: “And He shall reign forever and ever; forever and ever, hallelujah! Hallelujah!”