Here I am sharing part of my personal testimony and lessons I have learned this past year about how the Lord seeks his bride to pure and holy on the day of His coming.
I had the privilege of attending the International Meeting of Kairos for Christian Unity and Reconciliation hosted by the Alleluia Community, Augusta, Georgia on the weekend of July 15-17, 2016. This gathering drew speakers and participants from North America, South America, and Europe. There were over 300 people in attendance - Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, brothers and sisters from new charismatic churches, and Messianic Jews. About one hundred of the out-of-town participants stayed as guests in the homes of members of Alleluia Community in the Faith Village neighborhood. Participants in the International Meeting of Kairos had the awesome privilege to experience firsthand the Holy Spirit moving the Body of Christ toward the realization of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:21 “that all may be one so that the world may believe”.
The International Meeting of Kairos is a project of spiritual ecumenism that was begun in 2000 (the Great Jubilee) by the Community of Jesus (Bari, Italy). The Community of Jesus was founded by Matteo and Giovanna Calisi in 1983. It carries a three-fold ministry focus: worship of God, reconciliation of Christians, and evangelism. The city of Bari is known for its ecumenism. For centuries Orthodox Christians and members of the Eastern Catholic Churches have visited Bari because of its Basilica dedicated to St Nicholas.
This year’s meeting was the first time the International Meeting of Kairos was held outside of Italy. The theme was “Revival and Unity”. Throughout the weekend we heard this expression used: “unity in the midst of diversity”. Diversity is a good thing; the Holy Spirit creates diversity and from this diversity He graces us with unity.
Matteo Calisi and Bruno Ierullo (founders of United in Christ ministries in USA and Canada) moderated panel presentations and discussions Friday morning on “Unity and Diversity” and “Common Mission – Evangelize Together”. It was wonderful to hear the perspective each speaker brought for the benefit of all. In addition to hearing wonderful talks we had plenty of time for praise and worship, fellowship, and prayer ministry. And each day of the conference there were opportunities to receive prayers for healing. John Arnott ministered to us on Friday afternoon. That evening we enjoyed an extensive time of fellowship over a catered dinner.
Evangelical pastor Gary Kinnaman spoke on Saturday morning. He is involved in the John 17 movement (www.john17movement.com) that has transformed ecumenical relations in Phoenix, Arizona and he recently met with Pope Francis. His talk on Saturday helped many Catholics to understand the difficulties Evangelicals and Catholics face while learning to relate to one another. For instance, he said that Evangelicals who are charismatic are more open to Catholics than are other Evangelicals; he admitted that Evangelicals don’t know what they don’t know about Catholics; he said that differences in language - how we express Christian truth -complicates how we relate to one another; he also told Catholics that the term “ecumenism” is not a good word to use around Evangelicals. Rather, it is more helpful to speak of unity in the body of Christ.
Bishop Eduardo Nevares, Auxillary Bishop of Phoenix, spoke next, sharing how the Lord led him to work with other Christians to make Jesus known and to serve the poor, and how when he came to serve the people of Phoenix he was eager to pray with pastors of other Christian churches and ecclesial communities. He reminded us that division in the body of Christ openly conflicts with the expressed will of Christ. In the afternoon John Arnott taught on revival and the Father's love. Bishop Gregory Hartmayer, Bishop of Savannah, was the main celebrant at the Catholic Sunday Vigil Mass on Saturday afternoon and brought an apostolic blessing from our Holy Father. Damian Stayne led a healing miracle service at the nearby Columbia County Exhibition Center.
Sunday morning we attended an Evangelical ecumenical church service led by Pastor Joe Tosini and Pastor (and worship leader) Mike Herron, and we heard from Pastor Giovanni Traettino of Caserta, Italy who has been instrumental in bringing Evangelicals and Catholic charismatics together. Pastor Traettino is a personal friend of Pope Francis; in fact the pope visited his church in 2014. Listening to him it was very clear that God is moving in power in these days to bring about reconciliation within the body of Christ. We must follow where the Holy Spirit leads.
In the afternoon we heard the amazing testimony of Messianic Jewish rabbi Boris Grisenko. He shared how praying at the site of our Lord’s crucifixion led him to accept a call from the Lord to establish a Messianic Jewish congregation in Kiev, Ukraine. At the time he knew only 6 Messianic believers in the city; yet, this congregation is now the largest Messianic Jewish congregation in the world.
Dr. Kevin Ranaghan ended the day with a message that gave us much to take home to our families, ecclesial communities, and ministries: moving into unity is a process and we are in it (we have begun, let’s continue onward in the power of the Holy Spirit); baptism in the Spirit is not a doctrine but rather it is an experience (let’s not press to define it theologically as much as live the grace and spread it to others); we must maintain the ecumenical character of the gift of baptism in the Spirit in all that we do (let’s transform the world together for Christ!).
On a ministry trip overseas a couple years ago I experienced prolonged jet lag that wreaked havoc on my sleep and I experienced a sudden loss of sensing the presence of God in prayer. In times like this I simply have to walk by faith and not by sight. Thanks to the grace of God I made a choice to fix my attention on praising God even though I did not have the feelings that God was near.
After the ministry trip concluded and I had returned home I found myself still suffering from the loss of awareness of God's presence in my prayer. This dragged on for more than two months after I had come home. I got to the point I felt exasperated and began to wonder if God was angry with me but that He hadn't told me so. I was grasping for any explanation for why I felt so miserable.
In God's own good timing He revealed to me that He was certainly not mad at me but there was an important lesson for me to learn. The Lord gave me a mental picture of Jesus and me playing the children's game Hide and Seek. The Lord said we began to play this game while on the ministry trip. Jesus was the one who hid and I had gone looking for him. He and I played the game in the dark. I could not see that I had gone straight to the place where he was hiding but because of the darkness I did not realize that he was there and how close I was to him. Jesus told me later that he was pleased that I had come directly to him but the rules of the game did not permit him to speak until tagged so he kept quiet, waiting for me to discover he was right there. Unfortunately for me, I could not see Jesus, so I did not know how near he was.
The game went on a long time and I got tired and sat down on the ground only inches from where he was hiding but, again, I did not know that I had been beside him practically the whole time. In the end he broke the silence and revealed himself to me because he saw that I was so upset. For the Lord does not hide himself to tease us.
From time to time we all need to be reminded that God does not tease us. I invite you to listen to Pieces sung by Steffany Gretzinger at the OneThing 2015 conference.