March 2 - 6, 2001
God inspires people to do the things He wants them to do, as long as we keep our hearts and minds open to His whisperings, which are always gentle by nature, always respecting our will, always taking into account our weaknesses. God does not ask of us anything we do not already have.
Going back to last year, I cannot recall a moment whereby Suzy and I would have decided to bring Vassula to Australia a second time. The whole process has been one long preparation, one long inspiration from God. Events flowed from one into the other. I believe that we were simply led by the Spirit; Godâ€™s hand was in it, directing us where He wanted us to go, and bringing us the people to help organise the prayer meetings. God was the orchestrator of the whole tour.
This was Vassulaâ€™s longest trip away from home, more than a month. She was accompanied by the Armenian Orthodox Bishop from Lyon, France, His Grace Armen (Norvan) Zakarian, who had once before accompanied Vassula on a mission to South America.
Papua New Guinea
After prayer meetings in Bangladesh and a short stop at Singapore, where Vassula and Bishop Zakarian briefly addressed some True Life in God issues with local clergy, they commenced their gruelling tour in Papua New Guinea, where Vassula and the Bishop had to go deep into the jungle into malaria infested regions to preach the Word of God, all this under the heat and humidity of the tropics. In Australia we hear what a wonderful work Guy Joris is doing in Papua New Guinea together with Fr. Jack Tul, to bring the True Life in God messages to thousands of local people. Suzy and I will continue to support them within our means and capabilities, as we have done in the past.
Vassula and Bishop Zakarian put foot on Australian soil on Ash Wednesday, February 28, at Sydney airport, where they were welcomed by a small group of True Life in God converts. With just a dayâ€™s rest, Vassula gave her first witnessing on March 2 in the auditorium of the University of Western Sydney. Some 700 people attended the meeting, of which more than 70 were Armenian Orthodox.
Armenian Orthodox - "unity"
I make a special mention of the presence of the Armenian Orthodox here at Vassulaâ€™s witnessing, because Suzy and I have been baptised in the Armenian Orthodox Church, a Church that has kept the Christian Traditions over the past 20 centuries as handed down by our church fore-fathers, a Church and its people that has suffered greatly in the past 20 centuries by continually being massacred by surrounding hostile nations mainly because it was a follower and worshipper of the Supreme Martyr, following Him in His blood-stained footprints. Armenia was the first country in the world to accept Christianity as a state religion in 301 A. D. , based on the visit of Christâ€™s two Apostles, Thaddeus (St. Jude) and Bartholomew. Armeniaâ€™s acceptance of Christianity came twelve years before that of the Roman Empire under Emperor Constantine in 313 A. D. (Constantineâ€™s decision has become known as the Edict of Milan). In those days, Christianity had to be accepted by the State in order to protect the worshipping Christians against persecution, many of which were very violent. This year, in 2001, Armenia celebrates the 1700th Anniversary of its acceptance of Christianity as a state religion. The main festivities will take place in Armenia in September of this year. Like the Roman Catholic Church, it is also very hard for the Armenian Orthodox Church to accept phenomena like True Life in God openly, although I feel that the Roman Catholic Church is more open to the increased frequency of "apparitions" that have been taking place in the last 150 years throughout the whole world. It was nevertheless a great pleasure to see so many of my fellow Armenians attend Vassulaâ€™s witnessing. Those who did attend were truly touched by the whole event, not only by Vassulaâ€™s witnessing, but also by the presence of Bishop Zakarian being Armenian Orthodox, and the female singing group that comprised of Wilhelmina and Annette Pennings, Rebecca Sieff and Sonia McDonald, with assistance from Hamish McDonald and Marco Boucher, who sang Catholic and Pentecostal hymns. Can you imagine, Armenian Orthodox taking a liking to Pentecostal hymns, can you imagine Armenian Orthodox clapping hands on Catholic and Pentecostal Hymns: if this is not through divine inspiration, then I truly do not know where else it would come from. God inspires "unity" amongst His Churches, and those of us who read the True Life in God messages know the importance God places on "unity", unity in the heart, without losing the tradition and riches handed down over the last 20 centuries, but rather exchanging them with our fellow Christian brothers and sisters. Those present enjoyed the vocal group and the hymns they sang so much, that many came forward enquiring where they could purchase their CDâ€™s. Well, the group actually comes together specially to sing for events of True Life in God, which they have done for the past two years or so.
During the Sydney meeting, there was this strong sense of "unity" among all the present; I cannot describe this enough in words. It was very moving. It was very moving for Suzy, very moving for me, and very moving for every individual we spoke to. It is for me a big puzzle why clergy still maintain a "hard heart" towards True Life in God. They see the fruits, yet they turn their heads away. Although I do understand their viewpoint and some of their arguments, I also have learned through Scriptures and the True Life in God messages "not to suppress the works of the Holy Spirit", and that the Holy Spirit will blow where ever He wants to, to continually remind us of Godâ€™s Word and of His Omni-Presence, to bring us back to the Sacraments of the Church, to love God with all our heart, mind and soul, to love our neighbour as we love ourself, to love and pray for our priests. However, reading the messages I cannot withhold to say how sad and disappointed Jesus is at times on the attitude and behaviour some of the clergy take towards the True Life in God messages, which in fact are His.
Some clergy even go that far as to prohibit their people from attending True Life in God meetings. I cannot see how this can be inspired by the Holy Spirit.
On the Gold Coast where Vassula witnessed on Sunday March 4, I was told that a Filipino priest read out in Church that same Sunday the full notification of the CDF, and warned the Filipino congregation not to attend Vassulaâ€™s meeting. As a result, there were less Filipinos than we expected, but God had other plans. Instead of the 150 or so people we were expecting, God sent us four times as many. Such is Godâ€™s providence over our striving to please Him; in areas where we are incapable, He fills it with His Strength, and if anyone tries to close a door, He will open ten others.
Bishop Zakarianâ€™s Courage
I commend Bishop Zakarianâ€™s courage to travel with Vassula and to see with his own eyes how the True Life in God messages are changing people and bringing them back to the Sacraments of the Church. His courage flows out of his interest in Armenian mystical literature, of which one of the greatest mystics is Saint Gregory of Narek (ca. 945 - 1003). Bishop Zakarian always had his small Armenian prayer book with him where-ever we went, and during moments of solitude, that prayer book always used to come out, and you would find Bishop Zakarian holding the book high up with both hands, close to his eyes, embedded with his thoughts in prayer. His openness towards the True Life in God messages truly touched many people that came in contact with him. How I wish that more clergy would adopt the stand Bishop Zakarian takes towards True Life in God. By this I do not ask for full approval from any priest, Bishop or Church authority regarding acceptance of the True Life in God messages. By this I do however ask that they read the messages first before exercising any criticism or judgement. It is also important that they not only read parts of the messages, but the full message, all the volumes. Reading a paragraph here and there permits distortion of what God wants to convey to us, similarly if one were to read a passage from Scriptures here and there. May God increase in Bishop Zakarian the fervour he has shown so far for how God wants to reach all His souls, lost and found, through the True Life in God messages.
Immediately after the Sydney meeting, Bishop Zakarian was interviewed by the local Armenian TV Station. During the interview that took place in the Armenian language, Bishop Zakarian explained how he came into contact with the True Life in God messages and how his interest in the messages has grown over time.
Mike Willessee (well known TV Reporter)
The next day, before taking our flight to the Gold Coast, Vassula, the Bishop, Suzy and I were invited for brunch by a well known Australian TV reporter and personality, Mike Willessee. Mike has produced a TV documentary on recent apparitions in South America together with Ron Tesoriero, a lawyer friend. That program was aired on Australian and U. S. television and invoked much interest. May God inspire them that one day they may also dedicate similar efforts to making a TV documentary on True Life in God. As I understand it, Mike and Ron are now dedicating all their efforts in producing religious programs for TV. May our Lord assist them in their endeavours and open further doors.
After Sydney and the Gold Coast, Suzy and I accompanied Vassula and Bishop Zakarian to Canberra, where the meeting was organised by Patrick McNamara. Canberra is the capital city of Australia, not Sydney or Melbourne like most people think. The reason Canberra has been built as the capital city is because nor Sydney nor Melbourne would accept the other to be the capital city. So, to maintain peace, one was built between the two, well, more closer to Sydney than Melbourne, actually 3 and a half hour drive south of Sydney, but we flew into Canberra from the Gold Coast. Our whole trip was done flying.
Vassula spoke in Canberra on March 6. Canberra, being a city full of politicians and diplomats, was a good invitation to Vassula to also speak about her mingling with the diplomatic crowd because of Perâ€™s, her husbandâ€™s position as a diplomat. Vassula touched on the subject with a hilarious tone, much to the liking of those who had come to listen to her. Close to 200 people were there to listen to Vassula.
The next day the four of us flew into Melbourne, where the meeting was organised by Catherine Keightley, assisted by Fr. Maher a Jesuit priest, Graham Ebert, Mary Whiting and Catherine Gashi nee Tsakonas. Vassula and the Bishop entered the Hawthorn Town Hall to the wonderful recorded sounds of a Russian Orthodox Choir singing of Christâ€™s Resurrection. The turn up of more than 700 people is truly excellent, in view of the difficulties Catherine and her assistants have had in organising the event. Vassula was introduced by Fr. Maher, who from the beginning has always believed in the authenticity of the messages. I commend Fr. Maherâ€™s courage to openly promote and defend the True Life in God messages, in a time when the Roman Catholic Church is so cautious regarding manifestations from God in our times, that I sometimes wonder how many people are missing out on the outpouring of the Holy Spirit through the True Life in God messages. On a more sad note, Fr. Maher is currently battling with an illness; he does not speak much about it, but I ask you all to pray for him. Three years ago, when Suzy and I brought Vassula to Melbourne, it was Fr. Maher who did the opening word and boldly defended the True Life in God messages.
From Melbourne it was off to Adelaide the next day, an hours flight away, where the meeting was organised in the Croatian Club that same evening by Wally and Sue Szachnowicz. Before the meeting Vassula had a brief chat with a Vietnamese, who has translated all TLiG volumes into Vietnamese, and wants to start printing Volume 1.
It was amazing to see the hall so fully packed. Bishop Zakarian did a quick head count from the stage where we were seated; he reckons that there were close to a thousand people, including many Vietnamese. I must say that Adelaide that is known as "the city of churches" truly did honour to its name. Bravo Adelaide; now you need to keep on watering the seeds Vassula planted there.
Wally Szachnowicz is from Polish origin (no prices for guessing) and is the leader of the Divine Mercy prayer group in Adelaide. They get together once a month with up to 400 people. When Wally came forward to organise Vassulaâ€™s prayer meeting in Adelaide, his reputation as a leader was on the line, because friends warned him that by this he could lose his (comfortable) position in the Church. Wally had recognised the voice of our Lord in the True Life in God messages and could not deny Him. He went ahead organising the prayer meeting after talking to his Bishop and showing him Cardinal Ratzingerâ€™s interview.
The next day we were off to Alice Springs, the centre of Australia. Alice Springs is situated in the middle of the desert and is home to a large Aboriginal population. It is usually dry and red at the Alice, but thanks to a lot of recent rains the red centre was very green. Greg and Clare Mennis together with Rene Berkelmans organised the meeting in Alice in the local Catholic Church. It was good for once to have a prayer meeting in a Church, thanks to the openness and generosity of the local parish priest, Fr. Healy. Thank you Father for that. About 180 people had come to the Church to hear Vassula speak, including many Aborigines. At the end of her witnessing Vassula was presented with gifts from two Arrente Aboriginal Women. Then, Vassula commenced a session of individual healing prayer, praying over those who wished to be prayed over. Several people rested in the spirit.
The day before, Vassula was interviewed by the local ABC radio station. During the interview, the batteries of the recording equipment mysteriously ran out even though they had been fully charged for four hours that morning. Nevertheless, our Lord won in the end with a successful completion of the interview that went to air that same afternoon.
Also, Bishop Zakarian expressed great interest in viewing the Southern Cross, which he was finally able to do with some help from Greg and Rene, after a sumptuous dinner prepared by Cathy Golotta at her home. Rene also took the trouble to take us sight-seeing to Simpsonâ€™s Gap, out in the desert. Walking alongside a dry creek bed we came to a waterhole. The sight of the cliffs was simply awesome. It was very quiet and peaceful at the waterhole, where Bishop Zakarian said his so famous words: "Silence speaks".
It was off to Perth this time, our last destination in Australia, a three hour flight from Alice. About 45 minutes after take-off when the aircraft had established cruising altitude, we were able to get a good view of Uluru (Ayers Rock). Uluru is a huge piece of rock, the largest monolith in the world, that rises 350 metres above the surrounding countryside, has an area of 3. 33 sq. km. and a circumference of 9. 4 km. Many tourists that do not have heart ailments, climb to the top of the rock, a climb of 1. 6 km. It is not for the faint-hearted.
The meeting in Perth was organised at the Hyatt Regency Hotel by Joseph and Linda Chia. The meeting room was filled to capacity by the attendance of about 400 people, an excellent turn up for Perth, where the True Life in God messages are relatively new. Vassula was introduced by Fr. Peter Meo, with whom Suzy and I had a lengthy conversation in the hotel lobby. Fr. Peter expressed how rich the True Life in God messages actually are, and how they by themselves constitute a book on theology, using such simple language that can be understood by the man in the street. We were touched by Fr. Peterâ€™s enthusiasm over the True Life in God messages.
Fr. Peter Meo came to know about the True Life in God messages through Niels Christian Hvidt while he was at the seminary in Rome. He attended their prayer meetings in Rome and spent time with Vassula and other True Life in God readers. He is now a parish priest in Perth.
Although it was the end of a lengthy tour, it was not the end for Vassula and Bishop Zakarian. They still had one more meeting to go in Singapore; but for Suzy and myself, after spending leisurely another day in Perth, we returned for our 5 hour flight back home to the Gold Coast via Sydney.
How does she do it
Suzy and I travelled with Vassula for two full weeks, covering 7 prayer meetings in 7 cities wide apart, with hardly any rest in between. I bring this forward especially for those who still doubt about the source of energy and inspiration Vassula gets from, to continue doing this kind of gruelling evangelising work continually non-stop for the past 11 years, visiting 58 countries and speaking at some 700 prayer meetings on such a swift tempo, leaving her comfortable family life behind. I cannot think of any other source or inspiration than that which can come from God, in order for Vassula to keep on running around the globe and to be "hurled" by Him into the remotest corners of the world without losing her head.
Vassula spoke between 1hr 45mins and 2 hours at the meetings, without people moving or shuffling on their chairs. I can claim this because I was up on stage together with Bishop Zakarian while Vassula was speaking (this on request of Vassula herself) and could note the reaction of the people quite well. It is just incredible for any person, especially those of elderly age, to remain seated for 2 hours without feeling uncomfortable. I am sure if Vassula had gone for another hour or so, they would still listen to her with the same captivity.
There have been many more people behind the scenes than those mentioned in this writing, who have been involved directly and indirectly in organising Vassulaâ€™s Australian Tour to whom we are indebted. But one name deserves special credit, that of Vahik Vartanian, my right hand for so many years, without whom Suzy and I would find ourselves helpless.
As Vassula says every time at the end of each mission: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! Amen.