Friday, August 19, 2016

Family of Believers

Family of Believers
Lavon Shelley
      Many years ago God blessed me with a very close connection to a church family.  My life was not only centered on worshipping at the Church of the Good Shepherd, but also focused on the caring flock led by a very special priest, Father Al Durrance. It was during this time that I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. 
      Not long after receiving the Holy Spirit, I began to sense the physical presence of my Lord. I felt His presence so strongly that I would even move over so He could sit beside me in the church pew.   It was a sensation I'll never forget!  It happened on a number of occasions, and I became accustomed to His being next to me.  How wonderful it felt to have Him so close as we prayed together!
      Being a member of this special church family gave me such joy!  I was delighted to serve on the prayer team and to assist at the altar.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit service was held on Monday evenings.  Even ministers and priests from other congregations would come to participate in this service. Many, many other people were drawn to this service as well.  In fact, I can remember people lined up outside to come in.  One evening the service lasted so long I didn't get home until after 2 a.m.
      So many people were attracted to this church that we soon outgrew our small chapel.  A larger church was needed.  Father Durrance was extremely influential in its construction. Under his guidance, the planning and the building of the new church was accomplished.  The project became a united effort of all those who attended.  This new church was truly made possible by the hard work and love of the tightly knit church family members.  We even helped in the making of the stained glass windows.
      When Father Durrance left, I began attending another church.  I was away from the Church of the Good Shepherd for more than 35 years.  Now at the age of 93, as the passing of time would have it, many of my friends there began moving away - or passing away.  I was so saddened.  I decided that I would try returning to the church which I had felt very attached to so long ago.  As soon as I walked in the door, I knew I was "back home.”  The new priest, Rev. Sarah Bronos, welcomed me with open arms.  Today I am sitting in the same pew I used to sit in - feeling the same love I used to know.

      I am so grateful that the Lord has kept me in His family of believers!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Blessings - One After Another

Blessings - One After Another
Mary Ellen Ferderber

            On November 19, 2009, my mom went home to be with the Lord after struggling for seven months with pancreatic cancer.  Unfortunately, numerous other health issues prevented her from attempting any treatment for the cancer.  Because I had worked in healthcare since 1980, I tried to guide her to make informed decisions each time a new challenge arose.  I soon realized she was not interested.  It made me so sad to think she had no hope for this life.
            As time went on we talked and reminisced.  Through our discussions she became reassured that as a believer in Jesus she would be made whole when she finally reached her heavenly home.  She was looking forward to this promise.
            Before the tragic event of my mother's passing, I was a very healthy person - never sick a day in my life.  I was very happy as well - made joyful by my fellowship with the Lord and by my having a wonderful marriage.   However, the following year after her death, I was consumed with the nagging thought of pancreatic cancer.  I decided to have a CT scan to ease my fear of having cancer myself.  The doctor called with the results. He said, "All looks good, but you have a cyst in one of your ovaries.  You should probably have an ultrasound to make sure." 
            For the next three years we kept a close eye on the cyst.  Then it started to change.  I decided immediately to have both ovaries removed - foregoing the biopsy step - since cancer is prevalent throughout my family tree.  
            On December 13, 2013, the doctor called to see how I was doing following the laparoscopic procedure.  "I'm doing well," I replied.  Then the bomb dropped.  He said he was sorry to have to inform me that I had a rare form of ovarian cancer known as "clear cell."  He then referred me to an oncologist.
            During the next month my life took a 180-degree turn. In February I had laparoscopic surgery performed by the oncologist. I feel very blessed that neither one of the surgeries caused me any pain.
            Three weeks later I began having 21 doses of chemo.  Blessings from God - one after another - got me through this time. During most of these treatments, I had enough strength to work.  During the last few weeks, however, I did become very weak making it hard for me to even get out of bed.  My blood count was very low.  I lost my hair; I felt very cold a lot of the time.  Although this period of time was brutal, God stepped in to rescue me.  Godly women friends- some I hadn't even seen in ages - surrounded me with their loving care.   They fixed meals for me, watched me while my husband was at work, drove me to appointments, and read scripture to me as I was being infused. In addition, someone in Tabitha's Treasures, a ministry group at the Church of the Good Shepherd that makes and gives blessed caps to cancer patients, gave me a very soft one that provided me with much needed comfort and warmth at night.  My wonderful husband never once complained.  Hundreds of people were praying for my healing.  I felt a peace that surpassed all understanding during the entire time!
            Interestingly enough, I had a scripture verse on my work desk - one I had gotten when at chemo treatment -which is one of my favorites:
            All things work together for good to all those that love the Lord, to those that are             called to his purpose.

            That verse happens to be Romans 8:28.  As I noticed this reference, it suddenly came to me that my mother's birthday was August 28 which also happens to be referenced as 8.28 - the same numbers that corresponded to that Bible verse.   How wonderful to have that connection with my mother! Coincidence.  I don't think so.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Answered Prayers

Answered Prayers
Deborah Brittain

            Have you ever had one of those years when something challenging constantly happens - either with your health, finances, or concerning your loved ones?
            2015 was one of those years for me from start to finish.  During this time I was comforted and supported by the prayers offered for my family and me by the many prayer warriors in our congregation at Good Shepherd.  Every time a new challenge came up, I requested prayers for my issues and EVERY TIME my prayers were answered above and beyond my expectations.  I know I would not have made it through without the healing power of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
            In January of 2015 I was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Fortunately it was benign, but something needed to be done for two reasons.  It was causing increased deafness in my right ear, and it could also potentially cause facial nerve pain and/or paralysis on the right side of my face if left untreated.  The doctor originally wanted to do brain surgery to remove it.  However, since I already have balance issues due to a neuromuscular condition (technically called Charcot Marie Tooth Disease/Peroneal Muscular Atrophy) and the surgery could potentially result in more instability for me, surgery would be a terrible option. 
            My first answer to prayer came when Reverend Sarah, the priest at Good Shepherd who knew someone who had been through exactly the same thing, suggested that I seek out radiation treatment instead.  I did. The gamma knife type of radiation I received was directed specifically at the tumor - shrinking it. Hopefully, it has also “killed it” and not affected anything else around it. So far, my results have been very good.  I have MRI’s every 6 months.  Currently, it appears that the tumor is dying in the center and everything is going exactly as hoped and prayed for. Thank you, Lord Jesus!
            A few months later, I had my third colonoscopy in six years.  My past colonoscopies had always revealed problems: polyps and possible Crohns Disease or colitis.  The doctor had wanted me to have a colonoscopy a few years ago, but I couldn’t afford it due to my $10,000 deductible.  However, because of the treatment for my tumor, I met that deductible in 2015 and could finally afford a colonoscopy .  For the first time, the doctor had positive news for me.  He said everything was fine and there was no need for another one for 10 years.  A second answer to prayer.  Praise God!
            In the next few months, due to uncertainties about other health concerns, I decided to get my affairs in order and hire a lawyer to prepare my will.  I was referred to a lawyer who, due to my circumstances, prepared my will and other pertinent documents, pro bono.  Unbelievable! Praise the Lord once again. What an absolute blessing!  I could never have afforded to get this taken care of on my own.  Third answer to prayer!
            Because of all that was going on with my health and finances, I received a message from God to “sell my house and move in with my mother.”  From mid- August till November my family, friends, and I totally cleaned out my house and got it on the market. I would have never dreamed of making that change without receiving that message.  Although I felt content and happy, I’m sure that below the surface, my financial responsibilities were beginning to take their toll.
            Moving in with my mother was an unexpected blessing and has been a positive experience for both of us.  In spite of our health challenges, getting to spend quality time with my 93-year-old mother is a blessing beyond belief.  Fourth answer to prayer!
            My brother-in-law helped me to move.  As a result, he ended up having some health issues and went to the doctor.  As it turned out, that was not the actual cause of his health problems.  It was discovered that he had bladder cancer.  Because he went to the doctor for the wrong reason, his cancer was discovered relatively early and a full recovery is expected.  He had surgery and each exam since is showing him cancer free.  Fifth answer to prayer!
            To finish out 2015, in the last few weeks of December I had a mammogram.  A suspicious area was found. I had to have an ultrasound, and finally a biopsy.  The great news is... the biopsy was benign, and all these procedures were still covered under my $10K deductible that had already been met earlier in the year.   Sixth answer to prayer!

            God has stepped in at every twist, turn, and challenge in the last year, as he has always done in my life.  He has lead me through it all and taken me places I never expected to go.  I praise Him constantly for all of my blessings. I appreciate all the intercessory prayers being added to my own.  All glory, honor and praise to our precious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

All in God's Timing

All in God’s Timing
Terri  Sims

            When I was a small child, I experienced bad headaches. As I got older, they became more frequent, and by the time I was 13 I began to get migraines. I didn’t do much about it, except take Excedrin all the time (and burned up my tummy!).
            When I became a Christian at 22, I joined a faith community that believed in the gifts of the Spirit that include healing. I began to pray and have others pray for the healing of my migraines. In spite of their prayers, the pain continued to be bad. I would have only two or so days of relief before another one came on. I tried going to faith healers, "healing crusades", etc.  I had heard the usual... “All you need is faith”, or “Are you doing something wrong?” A number of times during about the next 20 years, doctors had prescribed MRI's.  Each time the results showed nothing wrong in my brain. Eventually I started taking daily medication which reduced them to about 2 a month. but nothing was helping them to go away. I was getting really discouraged, so I stopped praying for my miracle healing.
            About five years ago I started attending the Church of the Good Shepherd, and I began to pray once again for my healing. Fifteen months ago I began having Botox treatments (32 shots in one sitting!) that would lessen some of the pain.
            Then one day, Rev. Nigel Mumford, a well-known Christian healing minister who is the  founder of "By His Wounds" healing ministry, came to our church for a visit and to have lunch with the Order of St. Luke* members here at Good Shepherd. I asked Nigel if he would pray for my migraines after lunch.  As we were eating, he asked if there was a generational link in my family to this malady. We determined there was; my grandfather, both his daughters, both my mom’s daughters, and my daughter got migraines!
            After lunch, Nigel prayed individually for those of us in OSL.  When it came to be my turn, he prayed to the Lord to break this generational pattern and to heal my migraines. I actually did have one that afternoon, but by the end of my work day, it was gone.  
            I began to wonder if I was completely healed. Nearly 40 years later? I waited for a few weeks to see if I would get a migraine. I did not! I got excited and thought, "This is it!!  He has answered my prayer!" When I went back to my neurologist for another Botox treatment, I told him how God had healed me. I told him I would no longer need the treatments, and I wanted to be weaned off my daily medication. He was skeptical at first, but finally agreed that we would stop treatment gradually.
            Here I am a whole year later, and NO MIGRAINES! The Lord healed me! I know my prayers at last were answered… decades later.  I am so grateful for my healing.  It gives me such joy to tell my story to both my believing and non-believing friends.
            Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give    up (Luke 18: 1)
I am so very thankful that I never gave up.
            Thank you, Jesus!

*an inter-denominational religious order dedicated to the Christian healing ministry

Friday, September 4, 2015

What Tree?

What tree?

Nicki Ridenour

One day on my drive home from work at St. Paul's School for Girls in Baltimore, I stopped on Seminary Road at its busy intersection with Dulaney Valley Road. As I proceeded across the intersection, I saw my daughter Megg and her friend Debbie - driving towards me from the opposite direction on Seminary Road. We waved cheerfully as we passed each other and kept on going.

Immediately after crossing the intersection, I rounded a bend. Lying across the road was a huge tree blocking the entire street. I had to turn around in a driveway and find another way home.

The next time I saw Megg I asked her how they had gotten around that gigantic tree. She responded, "What tree?" It couldn't have been more than 15 seconds after our passing by one another that I had encountered it. The tree would have had to have fallen within that very short span of time.

Though it's been years since this incident, I still get tears in my eyes when I think about how narrow that escape was - for each of us! Never have I experienced God's protection so powerfully.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Pray for the Hook to Be Released

“Pray for the Hook to Be Released”

Rev. John Rice

In the fall of 2008, I was invited to bring a healing ministry team to the Diocese of Durgapur, located in the northeast area of India, to help train and equip their clergy in the area of Jesus’ healing ministry. After several months of intense preparations, our team arrived on a Saturday in early February 2009. We were tired from the thirty-two hours of travel, yet we were excited and uplifted through the prayers of family and friends. Little did we imagine what God had been preparing.

Our one week course, “Equipping the Saints for Jesus’ Healing Ministry,” began the following Monday. After initial introductions, worship, and joyful singing, the teaching began. Dr. Mike, a retired surgeon from Charleston, South Carolina, taught about praying for physical healing. At the end of his talk, he asked if anyone needed prayer for a physical ailment. All the clergy turned to one of their own, a pastor whose face was very swollen on one side. We invited him to come up so that we could demonstrate praying for physical healing.

He told us he was either stung or bitten by an insect nearly a week ago. As a result, half of his face swelled immediately and grew much worse as the area became infected. He took antibiotics with no relief, and he was still experiencing considerable pain.

Our team laid hands on him and prayed for healing. After about six minutes, we paused and asked him, “Is the pain any less?” He said, “No.” So we began praying again, with still no noticeable results. About that time, one of our team members, Kay, came over to me and whispered, “You need to pray for the hook to be released.” I looked at her and said, “What?” She said, “I keep hearing the Spirit say, 'You need to pray for the hook to be released.' I don’t know what it means, but that is what we need to pray.”

I had known Kay for several years and had come to trust personal messages that she often received from the Holy Spirit during times of healing ministry. So, more from my sense of trusting rather than my understanding, I asked the team to lay hands on the pastor once again. I prayed, “Jesus, in your name, I command the hook to be released in this swollen, infected area.” The pastor immediately turned to me and said, “Something just popped and the pain is already less.” (It turned out that the stinger from the insect had a barb that was embedded in the tissue of his face. The “pop” he felt was the release of the barb!)

At once we offered prayers of thanksgiving and praise to God for the healing that was happening before our very eyes. We prayed for the Holy Spirit to continue to minister to this pastor and to bring complete healing. By the end of the week the swelling was gone, and the wound was totally healed. This was the first of many miraculous healings we witnessed during our trip to India. Thanks be to God for his love, his guidance and his healing presence!

Friday, August 21, 2015

My Spiritual Awakening

My Spiritual Awakening

Sandra Costin

I was born in Newark, New Jersey into a dysfunctional family. While living with my family, good times could be described with these words: alcoholism, abuse, shame, self-doubt, fear, enablement, avoidance, loneliness, denial, and name-calling. The list would be longer if I were to describe the bad times.

I attended a Catholic school through eighth grade. The church and the school were both located at the bottom of a high hill. To help the residents living on the top of this hill, the church rented a beer hall which also served as an additional location for Sunday services up there - eliminating the Sunday transportation problem. It was in this beer hall that I first began attending church. Consequently, my first real church experience was in bar room with folding chairs. The place stank with stale odors of smoke and liquor consumed the night before. The supply priest, with his back to the congregation, said the service in Latin. My mom would drop me off so I could attend; then she would drive away. I remember feeling abandoned and confused.

My first Christian mentor, whom I call my "earth angel," was Grandma Mary. She came to stay with us once a year and even slept with me. Each night she would pray aloud for a long list of people. She was the happiest person in my life at that time. She loved the Lord - inside and out. She was definitely my first Christian role model and a "seed planter" for me. [Now as an adult, I follow her example by praying nightly and by reading my Bible.] When she was not there, I lived fearfully. Although my future seemed hopeless, I still dreamed of what a good life could be.

I married my high school sweetheart. In spite of my being blessed with two daughters, my 30-year marriage was a failure and could be described with these words: co-dependency, betrayal, depression, resentment, jealousy, self-pity, pride, divorce, rejection, guilt, and al-anon. However, I continued to dream of a happy future which included traveling someday - seeing such places as the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Although I had some hope, I was relying on myself to make it happen.

In 1994, after my divorce, I met another of my "earth angels". Betty Harris, a first grade teacher in New Jersey, asked me to help out with Vacation Bible School. During the last 30 minutes of the last day, she told the students to turn in their Bibles to John 3:16. The first child to find it was rewarded with reading it aloud. Hearing this verse -

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

It began to dawn on me that it was I who was broken, wounded, and even a sinner. I had never thought about that before. However, I did know that every day was painful and hard. I felt my life was futile with no end in sight. I realized I was in desperate need of this SAVIOR. That day I heard these words in my heart - not just in my head!

"For the Lord sees not as man sees. Man looks on the outward appearances, but the Lord looks on the heart."

Later that day, I asked Jesus Christ into my heart. I sobbed for three hours - happy tears! In spite of this new joy, my life did not change immediately.

My next "earth angel" was Jan. She asked me to be her helper at the Geneses Nursery School located in the Presbyterian Church. I began learning the Bible along with the three, four, and five year olds. What a loving environment to be in at such a painful time in my life!

God knew what I needed before I knew. I could not go on any longer by myself, because myself was what got me into this mess in the first place. He was truly showing His love for me. I handed Him a huge list of my needs. My husband was gone, and my daughters were acting out. I had a seventy-nine cent check balance. I had a house and yard to keep up. I was contending with appointments, lawyers, a crisis invention therapist, restraining orders, and court dates. My mom was dying of cancer. And it goes on and on... Inside myself I was saying, " I can't! I can't!" But GOD could! And Jesus came to my aid just as the Bible says God keeps His promises.

God heard my cries and has given me more blessings than I ever dreamed possible. Dick, my husband now, is truly heaven sent, and we are blessed with nine grandchildren. Since our being married, not only have I gotten to see the Sistine Chapel in Rome, but we have actually experienced living with other cultures in West Africa where the people truly love the Lord. We have even lived in Saudi Arabia where Christians worship in secret, or at the embassy, or on a military compound. And now... we live here in Florida and are a part of a loving church home! It is amazing what God does! My life has been transformed!

I am still co-dependent, but now it is on Jesus.