Today’s newsletter appears over three sets of shoulders. The first is a continuation of last week and the experiences of prayer that Georges Vanier had about 14 year after his initial, personal embrace of faith.
On 11 March 1952, General Vanier wrote the following about his closeness to Jesus:
“[…] I would wake up a little after 9 o’clock and immediately begin praying without effort, continuing until 7 o’clock. At the 8 o’clock mass in the crypt of the cathedral, same prayer all the time. After breakfast, we returned to the cathedral for our half hour of prayer. Here, once again, I felt very close, so close to Jesus, and this continued throughout the visit to the cathedral until we got in the car for the return trip to Paris. Between 6:00 and 11:30, I felt myself touched several times by God’s grace.”
On 23 November 1952, General Vanier wrote this about his experience of union with Christ:
“For some time, during my half hour of prayer, I’ve asked Jesus to give me His love so I can love Him, to allow me to thirst for Him as He thirsts for me, to be hungry for Him as He hungers for me, but I always felt some hesitation. This morning, however, after communion, my hesitation disappeared: I felt that Christ was in me and me in Him, that he could grow and I could wither to a point where He could in time say of me, ‘This is my body’ […].”
On 5 April 1953, General Vanier wrote this concerning his experience of faith:
“This morning in bed, before rising, after giving myself for some time to impassioned prayer, I found myself asking Jesus to take me by the hand and lead me through the darkness. During the day, I read the last seven paragraphs of Chapter 16, Book 2, of the Dark Night of the Soul and was struck by the clear and persuasive explanation that John of the Cross gives of the words ‘in the darkness and in safety!’”
During the feast of the Pentecost in 1953, General Vanier wrote this regarding his personal experience with the Holy Spirit:
“After breakfast, following the 7:30 mass, I decided to do some work on a speech… So I went into a room with my papers and closed the door. With no premeditation on my part, I began to invoke the Holy Spirit as I had never done before, through a prayer that we utterly personal, direct, sincere and loving; I am convinced that it was the Holy Spirit acting on and in me. In the past, my prayers had generally been addressed to Jesus, who had become a companion… But that morning, in invoking the Holy Spirit, I also prayed, unusual for me, to God the Father and the Holy Trinity, as if they were all like Jesus, persons with whom I had established a wholly personal relationship.”
Excerpts taken from: Dialogue: The military journal for those who are Called to Serve. Pg. 15.
I find these journal entries very moving.
The second sets of shoulders are the hunched and burdened shoulders of sisters and brothers in Central Africa. A reminder to each of us that all of humanity are our sisters and brothers and this piece refers to a re-commitment to that notion. It is from partner denominations in the Baptist World Alliance.
African Baptists condemn “wanton destruction of life and property”
Washington, DC (BWA) – Baptists in Africa have expressed deep displeasure at ongoing conflicts on the continent that have led to “wanton destruction of life and property of defenseless and vulnerable citizens.”
Making special reference to the Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the All Africa Baptist Fellowship (AABF) called “upon all parties involved to put an end to their anti-social actions and to start a serious search for peace.”
AABF, a regional body of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), urged the respective governments to “fulfill their constitutional responsibility to provide and guarantee peaceful co-existence, safety and security for all citizens irrespective of ethnicity, language, color, gender or religion.”
Baptists in Africa and elsewhere were encouraged “to intercede for these countries that respect for human life, peace and stability will soon be restored” and to “ take practical action to express their Christian love and compassion to those affected.”
Fighting in the CAR began in 2012 and led to the ousting of the government by Séléka, a Muslim rebel coalition. Attacks were made against Christian civilians. The new president, Michel Djotodia, resigned and was replaced by Catherine Samba-Panza. Her government has taken action to disarm and suppress militia groups that staged retaliatory attacks against Muslims.
Despite a January 2014 ceasefire agreement, fighting continues in South Sudan between the government and rebels. More than 900,000 persons have been displaced as a result of the fighting and are facing possible starvation. South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in July 2011.
The DRC has been bedeviled by wars and conflicts going back decades. An estimated 5.4 million persons have died as a result of the conflicts, making it the costliest in human lives since the Second World War.
Two of the three countries have significant Baptist populations. There are four BWA member organizations in CAR with total membership of more than 180,000 in more than 770 churches. The DRC has 11 BWA member organizations with more than 1.6 million members in approximately 5,400 churches. South Sudan reports less than 1,000 members, though they were part of the larger Sudan Interior Church, based in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, before the country’s independence.
The BWA, through Baptist World Aid, has sponsored and supported numerous humanitarian and development projects in these countries.
Assistance may be sent to the BWA by making donations online at www.bwanet.org or sent to:
Baptist World Aid
c/o Baptist World Alliance
405 North Washington Street
Fall Church, VA 22046
The Baptist World Alliance is a fellowship of 228 conventions and unions in 121 countries and territories comprising 42 million members in 177,000 churches. Its priorities are nurturing the passion for mission and evangelism, promoting worship, fellowship and unity, responding to people in need, defending human rights and justice and advancing relevant theological reflection.
Lastly, I want to share with you an entire church program from an Anglican Church plant (Anglican Network) in Vancouver, partly staffed by a friend of my daughters. While I appreciated the pattern of the service, what I thought many of you would like to see is the explanations of what was happening in the service to those who are new or simply unfamiliar. It was a lesson in welcome, transparency and literacy… even the formation of Christian character was most helpful. I would like to thank Pastor Roger Revell for his kindness in sharing his resources.