May 10, 2014

Priests of the Caribbean: Reflections by Rev. John and Mrs Lucille Gishler

We arrived in our Companion Diocese of the Windward Islands in November and stayed until Easter. The Diocese includes three main Islands which are also independent states, running from about 100 miles Northwest of Venezuela in an arc that reaches toward Cuba – Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia. Advent began with a huge gathering (1,200+) of the eight parishes on St Vincent (diameter 26 miles) in an outdoor stadium – I am fourth from the Left.

The Bishop was very interested in the Alpha Course and Cursillo and asked each of the eight parishes on St. Vincent to send two people for training and another four to take the course. You can see the joy after the Alpha Weekend in the picture. We left the training video, Leaders Guide and Alpha Course DVD with the Diocese so they can roll out Alpha in each parish.

In addition to Alpha “Fr. John” was attached to the Cathedral in Kingstown - leading worship sometimes at 5.30 am!) preaching, teaching the Catechism Class and supporting a Bible Study group and Prayer Group. I was also invited to speak to the clergy on Healing Ministry. We spent Christmas on Union Island, at the far end of the 32 Grenadine islands and just missed the disastrous flooding on St. Vincent. We also visited churches in Granada for five days.

Our main work in terms of hours of work was the development of a very small School Library at Bishop’s College Kingstown. This is a Church run high school that gives about 400 children who do not have the grades for entrance into the free Boys High School or Girls High School or tuition for one of the private high schools a second chance to succeed academically and potentially lift a family out of poverty. The students do not have textbooks so the Library will help them both learn to read and how to find information in a library. The excitement on the children’s faces made it all worthwhile.

In reflecting on our experience I am using the Mission Statement of Jesus from Luke 4.16-18 as an outline. Bishop Ker-Wilson prayed for us before we left and visited us in St. Vincent. We discovered the importance of prayer coverage in our first weeks when everything seemed to be going wrong. We sent emails to prayer teams in Calgary and the US asking for more prayer and within a week things turned around. Witchcraft is taken seriously in the Caribbean.

The Good News was proclaimed by our love in establishing the library and through the Alpha Course, my preaching and in our participation in the Prayer Group and Bible Study Groups. The excited faces of the 28 people at the end of the Alpha videos taught us that this was a new and life-changing experience of both Christian teaching and Christian community.

We were also proclaiming freedom to people possibly in the mental
Bishop Greg and wife Vickey
prison of formalized, priest-centred religious practice that emphasizes ritual over deep teaching on the Holy Spirit, intercessory prayer and healing ministry. I was invited to give the clergy a half-day workshop on healing prayer. Later I attend their Clergy Conference where the speaker ended by telling the clergy that all of their ministry should be directed toward healing and inviting everyone to come for prayer – and they all did.

Recovery of sight to the spiritually blind was the result as spiritual eyes were opened to see the potential power of God at work in the world. This experience will help some people resist the lies of Liberalism which have seriously damaged our Faith in the West.

The bottom line of Jesus’ Mission was to set the spiritually oppressed free. Our biggest surprise and most important learning was the discovery of lingering feelings of racism related to colonialism and slavery (abolished in 1837!). The link to our Canadian healing ministry experience in seeing people being released from (the sin of) sub-consciously believed lies (being not wanted, not intelligent, not popular etc.) was very clear. In my sermons ( see ) I began teaching on the possibility of a ‘Spirit of Slavery’ which might have somehow been passed down and be affecting the lives of men and women in the Caribbean - and the possibility setting the oppressed free through self-examination, repentance and confession to a priest all under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Easter Day with Sue et all
We actually did get to the beach occasionally where I (and our Bishop and his wife Vicky) snorkeled around the small islands in the background. That's Serena (Whopie to us) who ran a beach bar out of her van and Brooker - a real fisherman who lived on a boat just offshore. As we left we where overwhelmed by the love of our dear friends at multiple faewell parties and showered with gifts. We had an awesome time and are looking forward to speaking and writing on this in more depth.

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