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Report on my Ministry Trip to Chile, 2-10 January 2017

I had an exceptional time of ministry in Chile, thanks to all who partnered with me by collaborating with God in prayer to bring about what HE wanted to do with the Vineyard youth leaders, pastors and churches.

There were about 75 youth leaders and 12 pastors from 18 Vineyard churches in Chile. We met for 5 days (Tuesday to Saturday) in a Catholic retreat center 200 kms South of Santiago in the foothills of the Andes mountains. A remote setting with beautiful walks in the forests and crystal clear rivers. I had three sessions per day: two for teaching and one for questions and answers (Q&A), each 50 to 60 minutes long. What pure joy to teach such open, keen, sharp and enthusiastic young adults – an impressive group of leaders filled with God – the future of the Chilean Vineyard in really good hands! In all my years of ministry travels I have seldom come across such a sense of God’s presence, such promise, hunger for God, desire to learn and grow, where God is so evidently at work in such depth.

I was asked to teach 10 sessions on the Biblical Story and Kingdom Theology. A detailed systematic exposition of the Kingdom of God had not been done with the Chilean Vineyard leadership in this manner, and I was honored to do it! The Q&A times showed they understood everything I was teaching, and more. Their questions probed many aspects of Jesus and the Kingdom. They also watched 2 DVD sessions per day of John Wimber teaching “Power Evangelism” – a privilege for me to share a conference with John – even if it was ‘Electronic Wimber’!

The worship times, all in Spanish, were simply heavenly. I had little or no clue what I was singing, but most of the time I was overwhelmed with tears at the sheer sense of God’s presence, passion, intimacy and joy. The ministry times were equally remarkable. They went on for at least an hour at a time. Whenever I said, “Come Holy Spirit…” and watched and waited to see what God was doing, things began to happen. There is an extraordinary openness and responsiveness to God. The emotional freedom and expressiveness – perhaps part of the Latino culture? – made for a glorious mess! Some simply stood, faces shining with light. Some cried and shook, while others were coughing up ‘stuff’ (spiritual powers?) that came out of them. A few young women ended up on the floor wailing and screaming as God pulled out the deeply rooted pain of rejection and abuse.

Men also responded to the Spirit and freely expressed what was happening to them. One tall young man was standing up against a wall with eyes closed and hands and face raised to heaven. I saw the Spirit of God all over him. Then I said, “Juan, God is your real father. God is a father to you as your own father was unable to be.” He began to cry. Then bent over sobbing. I said, “God is saying to you, ‘my son, my son, my son, I love you my son’…” Then he collapsed on the floor and wept and wept. His close friends ministered to him for a long time.

It’s pure heaven to see God on people in different ways, working his own good work – largely is a mystery hidden from our own eyes and understanding, more so when you don’t know the language! I’m learning to let GOD be God, and trust him for HIS compassionate work. God is more willing to touch people and do his work through us than we are willing to take the risk of saying, “Come Holy Spirit…” Whether I feel inspired or feel nothing at all (which often is the case), I simply bless what God is doing, not knowing what he’s doing! I’m learning to relax into God and follow the faintest promptings, trusting that any movement in my thoughts, or emotions, or body, is the Holy Spirit. Then as I take the risk of speaking it over the person in faith, I see things begin to happen. What an awesome privilege to work with God and his power in our human weakness!

I preached in San Miguel Vineyard in Santiago on the Sunday morning. God gave me a specific word for them from Psalm 133: Maintain the unity of the Spirit through right relationships with God and each other. Where there is relational unity God anoints with his Spirit and commands a blessing! Where there is unresolved disunity, the devil is at work, a curse! We had a great time of ministry, with good feedback as to it being the very word from God that they needed. Then a Kingdom feast followed with all their leaders, with Chilean meat and wine and all sorts of tasty food, from 12:30-18:30 – with an intense question and answer session on Jesus and his Kingdom for the entire time! I understood Jesus feasting with people and sharing stories and teachings of the Kingdom!

At 18:30 my host said, “It’s time to take Alexander across town to preach at Agape Vineyard!” The people had been worshipping since 18:30 and as I walked in at 19:10, the pastor called me up to preach!! Again, in all my tiredness and over-eating, the power of God broke out as I taught on The Love of the Father. When our buffers and restraints are down it seems God can work more freely with less interference from us! The ministry time was particularly powerful – people didn’t want to leave the building – we only got out after 23:00! One last story: I went to a young woman who was bent over a chair. Whenever I touched her she moved and moaned with pain, as if things moved under her skin. We got her laid on the floor and then I laid both my hands on her back. There was an immediate strong reaction of body convulsion, coughing and vomiting. It went on for some time till full release and rest came over her. Eventually, in debriefing with her, a interpreter-friend told me she had sensations of burning heat and power wherever I touched her body. Yet subjectively, I felt no feelings or sensations of power. I simply followed Jesus in rebuking whatever was binding her. She had a history of chronic bodily sickness and depression. She said that she didn’t know what had happened, but she felt as if her body had been renovated and set free!

Thank you Jesus, and thanks to all who pray for me when I go on ministry trips!

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Report on Cape Town Ministry Trip

Gill and I returned home on Sunday night tired but filled with gratitude to God for the great time of ministry in Christian Life Camps Bay, Cape Town. I must confess: I did not take photos of the church and/or leadership meetings, or even the Saturday quiet retreat! I just took pics of beautiful Camps Bay itself! Forgive my carnality! Camps Bay with Lions Head mountain

On the first Sunday (15 April), and during the week, I taught on the call for every follower of Jesus to minister healing to others in the name of Jesus – what we call “equipping the saints.” This included me teaching the practical 5 step model of healing ministry. All those who came to this session practiced it with excitement and good feedback. For many, if not most in the congregation, it was a first to lay hands on people, and to see God work through them in ministering some measure of healing to others. Hopefully some will become really “hooked” on the joy and adventure of doing this Kingdom stuff … laying hands on anything that moves, speaking God’s words of healing by the power of the Holy Spirit!A room with a view!

This past Sunday morning (22 April) was a blast! I spoke on receiving healing in one or more of the six dimensions of human personality: spiritual healing, psycho-emotional healing from past hurts and bad memories, healing from demonizations, physical healing, relational healing, and healing of death and dying.  Many people responded all over the congregation in both the 0800 and 0930 morning services. All we could do was general ministry to those who responded, with everyone else standing up and laying hands on them to impart God’s healing presence. It was really wonderful. There is NOTHING like the quiet moving of the Spirit, the pregnant presence of God that fills the atmosphere, with people crying softly, others trembling, and many being touched and freed up in all sorts of ways. There is NO substitute for God’s manifest presence. It cannot be engineered, manufactured, hyped, or pretended, just invited. My beautiful wife on the rocks (don't tell her I said this, she doesn't read my blog!)

Continue reading Report on Cape Town Ministry Trip

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Report on Pastor’s & Leader’s Prayer Retreat

I was privileged to lead a pastors and leaders retreat from 25 to 27 January, 2012. My Vineyard colleagues in the NECSA region asked me to lead the retreat on “Entering the New Year – Praying the Psalms”. What an honor for me to do that! We had 32 people in attendance. See the photos of some of the heavy dudes who came!

I gave 5 meditation inputs with handouts for personal reflection, journalling and prayer. I dealt with issues like how we enter and plan the new year, how to deal with busyness and “the tyranny of the urgent”, and above all, how to make prayer a practical priority to keep our own hearts soft and fragrant as a garden for the Lord. We are first and foremost personal followers of Jesus, working on our own spiritual formation, as leaders of God’s people. Then our primary task as spiritual leaders is the spiritual formation of our people – by inducting and guiding them in the basic practices required for spiritual growth and health. That was the overall focus of the retreat.

We kept silence for the morning and afternoon sessions to best engage in our meditation times, and then the late afternoons and evenings were for relaxation, interaction, sharing and fun! The feedback from those who attended was good – God evidently met with many in meaningful and significant ways!

I am happy to post a disk of the 5 talks (in MP3 format) with the notes and meditation sheets, so that you can set aside time and do the retreat yourself where you are. The talks and notes are self-explanatory; they will guide you through the retreat step by step. All I ask is for you to pay my costs (the disk and postage, etc) by electronic transfer or direct bank deposit. If you email me I will give you all the details.

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Baptist Pastors Retreat – “Isaiah 58 Network”

Gill and I went to the beautiful town of George (the Southern Cape, South Africa) a Christian Guest farm called Carmel. We were invited to lead a pastor’s retreat from 24 to 27 October, for a group that call themselves the Isaiah 58 Network. They are ministers in the Baptist Union of Churches that are seeking the renewal of the Holy Spirit, not just of the ‘signs and wonders’ kind, but also in the area of social justice – hence Isaiah 58 (it’s worth reading). There were just over 50 leaders mainly from the Eastern and Western Cape.

The way into Carmel Christian Guest Farm
To Carmel guest farm

We were overwhelmed with the beauty of the place. See the photo of the view from our room. The gardens were so fragrance and full of blossoms. The food was delicious – we added a cubit to our stature! But above all, the pastors and leaders were so warm and receptive and open to the Spirit. We felt so at home. They drew the Word of God out of me like sponges soaking up water! And their sense of worship and waiting on God and receiving words from the Spirit, was such a refreshing for Gill and I. It is so amazing to me that we come to minister to them, but so often on retreats and ministry trips of this nature, we are the ones who are ministered to! We went home full of joy!

View of the ocean from our room
This is the view from Carmel

I was asked to teach on Isaiah 58 with a focus on social transformation, healing and spirituality. The first night I shared my personal journey in following Jesus in ministry as a spiritual leader. Then over the next two days I gave five teachings on the themes just mentioned. We spent more time doing Spirit-ministry in the evening sessions, and many reported being deeply touched and cleansed and healed and empowered by God. What a privilege and honor to minister to pastors and leaders in this way. I feel so very grateful to God that I had this wonderful opportunity.

View of chapel on the hill
The lovely chapel at Carmel
Carmel chapel where the meetings were held

Here are two snippets of feedback – among others – that I got from some leaders soon after the retreat.

Alexander, I have so longed for a healthy marriage of the Word and the Spirit and am rejoicing at what the Spirit is doing in Isaiah 58. Your teaching, spirit and ministry was as rain to us all. Thank you once again.

Dear Gill and Alexander,  The more I think about the week that has just gone by the more I feel incredibly blessed to have sat under your ministry. There were four things that stood out for me and were a blessing. A lack of arrogance from both of you. SO many Christian leaders can lose touch with people. You are both so warm and humble. Secondly it was your awesome mix of knowledge and spirit. The Isaiah bunch can be a funny audience because as good Baptists they have the Word grounding but also have a desire for the work of the Spirit. Many people can be strong in one area and weak in another. You are well taught on both sides and blessed me in both ways. Thirdly your testimony challenged me hugely, your willingness to share your story and be vulnerable among a bunch of strangers. There is so much power in a testimony and it opened the ears of everyone in the room, it gave you a platform to share everything else you had to say. And finally, the partnership that you and Gill have really does speak volumes about the power of a good marriage and how it represents Christ to the world. So thank you for the time spent. I am probably not telling you anything that you don’t already know but I felt I needed to tell you that as a ‘thank you for being who you both are’ sort of mail. God Bless.

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Durban Retreat Report

This is my very first blog post!! Can you believe it! Thanks to some friends who have tried really hard (over many years) helping this e-challenged pastor to start doing a blog! I have been in an e-fog, or so it seems, for a long, long time. Things are getting a little clearer now!

This first posting is a report on a trip last week to Durban (30 March to 3 April). I have sent this report to two email groups – to my ministry colleagues in the Vineyard, and to my community, family and friends (“prayer-partners” in the ministry that I do – often with my wife, Gill – on our trips to various places).

Gill and I were invited to lead a two-day silent retreat for Sam Kisten’s church (Chatsworth Vineyard). There were 23 people – 4 or 5 being from one or two other churches. It was held at the Marian Hill Retreat Center outside Pinetown, near Durban – a lovely place.

Marian Hill was started in the mid to late 1800s by an Austrian Catholic missionary-priest, as a mission to the Zulus. It evolved into a Trappist monastery – a silent order. It is now a sprawling development with many building, facilities and aspects of ministry, one of them being a large retreat center to serve the broader church. It is very well priced and well worth a visit for a personal or group retreat (I must learn to take some pics of these places so that I can include them here in my reports!!!)

It was a great honour and privilege for Gill and I to lead a silent retreat for a Vineyard church!! It was a first for all of the participants. We have different pictures/ideas that arise in our heads when we hear “silent retreat”.  Anyway, it was not as you may think. We took the theme of “Introduction to Christian Retreat” and built meditation exercises around the key aspects of any classic Christian retreat: Solitude and Silence, Rest and Renewal, Meditation and Prayer. The purpose was to introduce the participants to the experience (first and foremost) and the understanding of authentic Christian retreat, so that they can then continue a journey – now with a clear frame of reference – of taking periodic personal retreats. And some of the leaders who are given to the “inner work” of the soul, can also use this experience and these materials to begin introducing others to retreat.

Each session had a brief verbal input with some practical exercises (entering into silence) and a meditation handout-sheet, which the participants worked with for 1 to 3 hours. Then we had times of feedback and sharing what God was saying and doing with those who wanted to share. We ended on the Friday with worship and breaking of bread – it was pregnant with God’s presence – tears and “God-stuff” flowing freely!! In fact, almost every sharing time ended in tears for some! It was evident that God did a deep work of bringing people to stillness, of some healing, peace, rest, instruction, calling, guidance, etc – they all in their own way testified to this.  The beauty of this kind of experience is that people experience God for themselves as they work with the Word, with God in prayer, with their hearts and lives in the stillness of his presence.

On the Sunday I preached in the Chatsworth Vineyard. The worship was heavenly! It’s a healthy strong church. I felt God led me to preach on “A Call to Prayer – which is a call to the Desert, to Warfare, to Spiritual Growth”. I took a quote from Evagrios the Solitary (345-399 AD, a hermit in the Egyptian desert), who wrote 200 tacks on prayer. He began with, “First of all, pray for the gift of tears so that through sorrowing you may tame what is savage in your soul”. I find that profound, unnerving, terrorizingly true! I don’t know about you, but I know me, and there is a savage in me that needs to be tamed by God’s Spirit of Love. The word “sorrowing” is a favorite Greek word used by the Desert Fathers, penthos, which means a deep mourning for one’s true condition before God as a sinner, captured in “The Jesus Prayer” which they used incessantly: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Anyway, I spoke on Jesus’ baptism and his conferred identity from Father, “you are my Son, my Beloved”, which was immediately tested by the devil in the 40 days of fasting and prayer in the desert…. “if you are the Son of God, then….” When we truly begin to pray we enter a desert where demons manifest and test our identity as God’s beloved. This is how we learn to defeat evil by God’s Word and grow into our true identity as beloved children of the Father. I called people who wanted to respond by saying, “God, I want to get intentional about prayer in my life, and truly begin to seek your face”. Most of the church came up and knelt down, and many wept.

Pray for us, because Samuel kinda prophesied at the end of the retreat, and at his church on the Sunday, that God will use us to raise an army of people who know the spirituality of retreat & silence, of growth & character transformation. The whole area of Christian spirituality and spiritual growth has to be built into God’s people (especially the Vineyard!!) Here am I Lord, send me! So pray for us as we do more of this, and as I continue to write the book “Doing Spirituality”

And once again, this report is to say thanks for praying, because it makes all the difference – we cannot do this alone – we are an extension of you!