“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-11)
Last month, Meg and I had the privilege of going with a team from our diocese to Africa to lead a healing retreat for pastors who serve in some of the most conflicted areas of the continent, places we have read about in our news reports. (For the sake of confidentiality and their security, I won’t say anything more specific about who these saints are or where they live and serve.)
A group of 11 from our diocese joined with one former member of our diocese and four from Africa to form our team. All had extensive experience in personal healing prayer and all had previously ministered in Africa. It was an amazing group and the Lord joined us together into a strong and united team.
The Rev. Onesimus Asiimwe, Ron Davis, Betty Mallory, Stan Kriz, our African partner (face obscured), Bishop John Guernsey, Edwina Thomas, the Rev. Alison Barfoot, the Rev. Joe Acanfora, the Rev. Titus Baraka, the Rev. Jay Baylor, the Rev. Meg Phillips Guernsey, Scott Thompson, Carol Updike, the Rev. Alex Leighton, and the Rev. Kathleen Christopher.
The purpose of the retreat was to offer rest, renewal and personal healing prayer for about 50 indigenous pastors, both Anglicans and others, who serve on the front lines among several unreached people groups, some of whom are quite hostile to the Gospel. We were able to bring the pastors out of their home areas of violence and intense pressure to a modest yet lovely and peaceful retreat center. These pastors proclaim Jesus boldly and faithfully at great personal cost and it was our hope that this retreat would be refreshing and renewing for them.
Along with wonderful worship led by a young local music team, solid teaching, extended times in small groups for sharing and prayer, the heart of the retreat was a two-hour personal healing prayer appointment for each pastor with two members of the team. These pastors know the Gospel and with great grace they offer forgiveness through Christ to those who have attacked them and their families and their people. But few if any of them had ever had the opportunity to receive such focused personal ministry. They were eager to receive prayer and the Lord did some great works of healing, even of deep wounds from violence and trauma.
I praise God for the team from our diocese, who served so humbly and so faithfully, offering these personal prayer appointments for six hours each day! Their leadership is evidence of the passion for mission and the fruitful healing ministries in our churches.
Even though I can’t tell you more about who these pastors are, would you nevertheless offer a prayer of thanksgiving for their courageous proclamation of the Gospel? And when you next hear in the news of some act of terrorist violence, would you pray for the pastors who serve in that place? Pray that the promise of 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 (above) would be true in their lives and ministry, that they would not be crushed or driven to despair or forsaken or destroyed, but that through them the surpassing power and love of God would be shown to the world for the glory of Jesus Christ and the spread of his Kingdom.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. John A. M. Guernsey