This week, last year, I was in Rome with Bridge for Peace, an international healing ministry. The team consisted of Ed, Annette, Mark, Nora, my husband Wally, and I. We were there to pray for priests and religious, mainly from third-world countries. Men and women of God far away from home, studying for doctorates or licensure in a foreign language, experiencing prejudice because of skin color, missing their families, friends, and native foods. “How can I pray for you?” was the question of the week. It was an amazing week of learning to listen more closely to God, and to put total trust in Him for the most basic of things—whether to turn right or left on St. Peter’s Square; whether to approach the priest straight ahead, or the group of sisters behind me. My faith grew by leaps and bounds in one week of February, 2010.
And now it’s February, 2011. Bridge for Peace is back in Rome. Ed, Annette, Mark and Nora are walking the streets of the city, walking St. Peter’s Square, asking the same question we asked last year: “How can I pray for you?” Why am I here, sitting in my living room, my computer on my lap, drinking a cup of tea and staring out the window at the dark and dreary Ohio landscape? How I miss my friends in Rome! How I miss the adventure of praying for strangers! Of planning the day according to the whispers of the Spirit!
I quietly remind myself that I’m at home this week because I learned, in Rome last year, to listen more closely to the whispers of the Spirit. The Spirit told me this was not my year to go to Rome. That I was to stay here and wait upon Him.
But it’s cold in Ohio, Lord, and it’s warm in Rome! My dear friends are there! I want to be with them!
Two days ago, on Sunday morning, the first day of the 2011 Rome Mission, Wally and I spent an hour before church praying for the Rome team. The Scripture the Lord led us to was 2 Cor. 2:12-3:6. The verses that jumped out were v. 14-16: “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the
knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”
We went into quiet. I saw the team as flowers – instead of handing out flowers on the square to priests and sisters, as we did last year, each person on the team was a flower, and they were simply giving of themselves. The beautiful aroma of Christ, through them, permeated St. Peter’s Square, and followed them through the streets—on the buses, in the subways, wherever they stopped to eat or rest.
Finally, I saw an image of an open door with light pouring through. It was an image of power and beauty. Imagine my surprise when I turned to The Message to read the same Scripture: the chapter heading read, “An Open Door.” Verse 12 read, “When I arrived in Troas to proclaim the Message of the Messiah, I found the place wide open. God had opened the door; all I had to do was walk through it.” WOW!! What an amazing message of encouragement to send to the Rome team.
What Wally and I didn’t realize at the time was that this was also a vision for the two of us, as well, and for the new ministry we are beginning at Cloudland, our retreat in the country.
We were staying at Cloudland for the weekend, and after prayer we had to rush to get to church on time. We decided to visit The Vineyard, a new church plant in the university town of Oxford, just up the road from Cloudland. Although we love our church (College Hill Presbyterian) in Cincinnati, we knew we had to find a church home in Oxford in order to meet people, make ministry contacts, and make friends in our new community.
Within 5 minutes of walking into The Vineyard, I knew we had come to the right place. A brief talk with the pastor gave me chills. One of the core values of the church, he told us, was healing prayer, a ministry we have been involved in for years, and that we plan to offer at Cloudland. And then worship began. The Holy Spirit fell upon this small congregation that meets in a strip mall, and we were overcome. Wally grabbed my hand. I looked at him to see tears streaming down his face, just as they were making tracks down mine. Silly grins—the kind smiled through tears and wobbly mouths—burst out on both of our faces. We had somehow found our way “home” in a strange town, among a crowd of strangers. The worship continued for an hour, uninterrupted to keep to a man-made schedule. The presence of the Sovereign Lord was manifest in a very real way. People were down on their knees, dancing, hands lifted in worship.
You see, we were to be at this particular church on this particular Sunday. While this is a Spirit-filled church, the Spirit of the Lord does not fall with that kind of power every week. We were meant to be there for that manifestation of the Lord. If we’d been in Rome, we would have missed this hit-you-over-the-head message that the Lord had led us to this church in order to forward His ministry at Cloudland.
We also were meant to be on the “inside team,” the team of intercessors for this particular Rome mission. The Scripture God led us to earlier that morning was confirmed twice, by another group of intercessors on Long Island, NY, that very same evening. A woman in that group had a vision of “power blossoming like a flower” upon the team, much like my vision of the team as flowers. Another woman in that group was given 2 Cor. 2:14-17: we are the aroma of Christ, the fragrance of the knowledge of him wherever we go. These words, visions, and Scriptures collected by the inside team are sent on a daily basis to the outside team in Rome, who uses them to discern their movement for the day, and for the week, within the city.
I praise God that I am here this morning, in my living room, my computer on my lap as I look out on a dark and dreary Ohio day. For I know, without a doubt, that what God whispers in my ear is sure and true. I know that God has a purpose for us at Cloudland, and that He moved us closer to that vision during our worship at The Vineyard on Sunday. I know that our prayers, visions, and Scriptures will influence the movement of God’s Spirit through the team in Rome this week.
I know, without a doubt, that God loves me, that He has a plan for my life, and that He will lead me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
If only I will open my ears and my heart, and listen well