Paraclete 2015 Retreat

Sixty Paraclete associates and board members came together in late April from all over the US and around the world at the Navigator’s Glen Eyrie Conference Grounds in Colorado Springs!  Many came fresh from international ministry.  Our theme was “Connections,” an important concept for a group that ministers so far and wide. 

If you had been able to peek into one of our meetings, you would have found a group of amazing people who are powerfully connected to God and committed to using their energies to communicate Christ. I wish you could have been with us to hear the stories of the important kingdom work God is doing through our growing band of faithful people.

Because we only get together every 18 months, we spent a lot of time sharing and praying for one another. It’s very meaningful for Paraclete associates to come alongside each other.  I came away, once again, convinced that God is using our people to change lives and bring about transformation all over the world!

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Paraclete Conference and Retreat

The Paraclete community is an interesting one. Our associates live and minister far and wide, and we believe that is a good thing. So we use many methods to maintain connections within our community. Some of them are new information technologies, like email, social media and teleconferencing.

Some of the ways that we maintain community are more traditional, and one of them is happening the end of April. Associates from all across the United States, and some from other countries, are gathering in Colorado Springs for the 2015 Paraclete Conference and Retreat. It has been 18 months since we got together like this, for fellowship, rest, encouragement, networking and training. This year’s theme is Connections.

Ironically, one of the scheduled sessions for this “face-to-face” meeting is training in new information technologies that Paraclete makes available to associates. These are powerful networking, information and productivity tools that we hope will enhance associate ministries and foster relationships within Paraclete until the next time that we are able to come together for another conference.

Please pray for/with us. The logistics involved in bringing together a group of this size are considerable. Spiritual opposition is evident. Associates have experience unexpected complications with health, family, finances and ministry as they prepare for the conference. We believe that this is to be expected when God is about to do a great thing. Pray that he would lead, bless and strengthen us for renewed ministry coming alongside Christian leaders around the world.

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Who We Are

At Paraclete, we value being as much as doing. Here are a few personal characteristics that we try to bring to every encounter.

We are Broken A house church leader in Asia noticed this about associate Kathie Slusser:

“The most touching moment was when I saw the teacher (Kathie) say with tears on stage, ‘We are all broken.’ I often don’t accept the broken me and live in agony and despair. Previously I know God loves me, Jesus loves me, I have the Holy Spirit, but never like this moment. The experience is so profound–really touched! ”

We are Vulnerable and Transparent After a week-long soul care conference we heard from a missionary couple in the Dominican Republic:

“What a gift it has been to hear your words—and the words of our Lord this week!  Your authenticity and vulnerability are a real blessing.  In our experience, missionaries tend to be independent and self-reliant.  We miss out by not being vulnerable—thank you for your example!”

We are Listeners A woman in ministry in Guatemala had this to say about a Paraclete associate:

“I just wanted to thank you for listening to and holding my story. Your compassion, grace, mercy and loveliness before the Lord just showered me.

We Bring Ourselves Fully to Every Encounter And we are humbled when others want to imitate us as we imitate Jesus, as was the case for one Paraclete associate in China:

“The teachers themselves are very good examples and worth imitating. I often think, ‘I’d like to become like Sister X.’ And the teachers have brought us lots and lots of new ideas to think about, and I hope that sisters I know around me can also get some of this [these ideas]. Very helpful! “

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How we come alongside

Sometimes, the spirit of the minister is as important as the content. For Paraclete’s formal methodology, see the side panel. Here are a few highlights.

With Encouragement From Nepal, after a week with missionaries one Paraclete couple got this feedback:

“We love you guys! I can’t begin to express how encouraging and refreshing it was to have you come out to visit and serve us. Thank you … You guys rock!” … …   “Thank you so much for your life of ministry and sharing it with us. What a blessing.”

With Love A handwritten note to a Paraclete associate after leading a small group:

“You have a unique ability to tie things together and see the bigger picture. You always make everyone’s input feel like ‘wisdom’ had been spoken. Thank you for your kindness, for your insight, your consistency and for your unconditional love.”

By Modeling what we Teach After co-teaching a marriage seminar, a Paraclete couple got this feedback from an African district bishop:

“I have had very positive feedback from my leadership team about your content, but especially about the fact that you taught together – something they’ve never seen before—because that model challenged them about ministering and working together as husband and wife.”

By Journeying with those we Mentor In some mentoring relationships, it’s hard to tell which person is the mentor. One Paraclete associate got this email from a prayer partner:

“Just wanted to stop in your inbox and say ‘thank you’ for being on the journey with me, praying with and for me and sharing yourself with me. [You helped remind me] that I DO BELONG, AM HEARD AND LOVED. I thank God for you walking the journey with me.”

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How We Serve

Evangelism Associate Carey Childrey got this encouraging word from a third-year seminary student:

“Your course from two years ago helped us and me very much, sir! We have used the evangelism training to lead 50 people to Christ at the . . . Engineering College in our outreach.”

Story Telling in Oral Cultures Jim and Arline Parris got this encouraging feedback during a Simply the Story training session with a team of Africans who go on international mission trips:

“This is so powerful! I can see how this will change my teaching and preaching.”

And from South Asia, an encouraged pastor writes to a Paraclete associate:

“When I would preach in the communities from the Bible there was so much opposition. I myself was beaten three times. Now that we are telling stories there is almost none of that. Now I feel safe.”

Appropriate Technology Introducing technology into mission work can be a two-edged sword. Associate Cliff Peters, teaches creativity and sensitivity as much as technologies. This African student understood:

“The man who has awakened my innovative and inventive potential! I thank you so much, Mr. Peters. May the Lord reward you greatly for your love, compassion and service. I can’t wait to meet you again someday.”

Emotional and Relational Health These topics are as crucial for missional workers as for anyone. We got this feedback from a missions pastor, about associate Gary Wittevrongel’s ministry to men:

“Gary loved, engaged, and trained us well. I felt safe, covered when appropriate, and he led me to deep, painful places well and back up excellently. My life will never be the same, and I am encouraged and challenged to love deeply, engage in strength and love all my life!”

Associates David and Debbie Bochman lead Aphesis training domestically and internationally. For many, the training is life-changing, as this attendee testifies:

“I would say that Aphesis is such a different approach to so many areas in life that even the church does not address – on relationships (especially with God) and others – that I feel that this is a turning point in my life.”

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Where We Go

Paraclete associates ministered in 35 countries in 2013. I’ll highlight only two.

Ukraine Most Paraclete associates reside in the U.S. and travel internationally. One Paraclete couple lives in Kiev. They got this note from a Persian man who ministers to the international community there:

“I thank the Lord that He brought you… to Kiev last year. You have been strategically used of the Lord to help put me back on the path to restoration in ministry.”

South Asia Several Paraclete associates have had recent significant ministry in South Asia. A local project leader of a justice and advocacy ministry wrote to associate, Jerry Hogshead with thanks for his gentle correction:

“Dear Brother, It is painful for me to see my mistake, but I am so happy that you have helped me to see it, thanks to your email. I thank God for an elder brother like you who I can listen to and learn from and who is concerned for my growth and improvement.”

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Serving Women

While we minister to women in every recipient category, women are the focus of some Paraclete ministries. As an example, Pat Russell heard this from the leadership of Women in Ministry:

“Overall we like the curricula Pat has drawn up and expressed great appreciation for her education and experience in curriculum design which brings focus and clarity to the WIM offerings – go, Pat!”

And from a missionary woman who attended a retreat lead by a Paraclete associate:

“Each of your messages was used very specifically by the Lord. Thank you for humbling yourself in such a transparent way. The fruit from this ministry will continue to be produced and have ripple effects long after you leave.”

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Muslim Background Believers

These dear brothers and sisters are on the cutting edge of the kingdom, regardless of their vocation. Our work with them takes place in neutral countries, often with Middle Eastern diasporas. Much of it is one-on-one. Progress is very encouraging, like this message to an associate in Eastern Europe:

“You are my spiritual great-grandfather! Hamid taught me, Ali taught him and you taught Ali.”

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Missionaries and Next Generation Missionaries

With our stated goal to come alongside the “global missions community,” we obviously work with a lot of missionaries. A pastor writes of associates Jim and Leta Van Meter:

The Van Meters are two of the most delightful people who enter the lives of others, see their hearts and pour out in very wise and intimate offering. As they come alongside the global missions community, they passionately encourage and equip missionaries to care well for their souls.

Some of the most exciting results we see is the growing number of mission workers from traditional mission fields. The bishop of a Zambian denomination writes to Tom and Bonnie Kopp:

“We saw how the word you shared about missions worked in our progressive decisions. One of the resolutions was that each church will contribute more in the next twelve months toward missions. We will be able to send a new missionary pastor to the Eastern province and subsidize the allowances of those we have already sent.”

We are particularly pleased when those we train, go on to train others. It happens often, noted by this seminar attendee:

“Hi, Mr. Cliff, I managed to get to Zambia in one piece. I’m very thankful for everything I learnt from you. May God bless you and your family. Remember me in your prayer as I begin the mammoth task of disseminating some of the training to my fellow Zambians.”

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Mentoring and Coaching

In less formal settings Paraclete associates mentor, disciple and coach missionaries and kingdom workers, like this man who wrote:

It is so helpful for me to discuss things with you and evaluate the different areas of my work. It helps me to see my vision and goals much clearer, to be bold and confident and to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit. Thank you so much for giving me so much of your time and helping me to build up my spiritual life and my leadership ability.

Paraclete associates are all experienced servants who are in a place to share what they have learned. Associate Stuart Rowell has sponsored 18 Eastern European students to study in the UK. He writes, “as I watch some of these people serve now in their own countries, having been equipped in the UK, I am humbled to know that I have been used as a catalyst in their spiritual development. One of my favorite verses at present is Act 13:36 that reminds me that all any of us are doing is serving God’s eternal purposes in our own generation, and then we are going to pass out of service. Perhaps that more than ever spurs me on to serve beyond normal retirement age in coming alongside to mentor, coach and see beyond the immediate with many of the younger men and women.”

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Where is Julie?

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Paraclete associate, Julie Field, ministers in Ethiopia. She has been working with a local group in ministry to teenaged girls. This month they received formal NGO status. Here’s what Julie wrote in a press release to other agencies working with young women.

Pink Girl Ethiopia is a licensed NGO in Bahir Dar- Northern Ethiopia! We have been a pilot program for four years and have grown from 15 girls to 200 since January, 2011. In Ethiopia only 30% of girls complete high school, and only 20% go on to university. Pink Girl believes that the girls need tutoring and life skill support and with that will move through university. In four years 24 girls have gone on to university or nursing college and 95% of our girls each year pass to the next grade. We have small-sized classrooms with a max of 20 girls. We have taught the teachers to tutor and create an interactive learning environment, and it is working. We may be small but we are powerful.

P in K = Power in Knowledge Girl = PinKGirl.

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Training and Education

This broad category of activities covers a host of settings in which associates are helping others learn. One associate took books to a resource-starved seminary and got this response from a thankful student:

“Sir, before you came, we had no books; now, we have five more books than we ever have had before … and we never had any textbooks! We cannot thank you enough!”

The Bible is at the core of our training, as evidenced by this reaction of a Latvian pastor to a women’s seminar given by associate Shelly Volkhardt:

“Thank you so much for your God-filled words and testimony. You brought God’s Word and will alive in a special way….You are God’s gifted and loving messenger sent to declare His love and grace to His beloved children.”

In Ethiopia, Julie Field works with 150 8th-12th grade girls in a tutoring program called PinkGirl, which readies the young women for college. 100% of the PinkGirl 12th-graders have gone on to college for the last two years. Pretty amazing considering that only 20% of girls even graduate from high school in the country!

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