Tour of USA/Canada, November 15th to 22nd 1998
Reported by Jonathan Nektarios
Thoughts before Departure;
The list of Vassulaâ€™s worldwide meetings is so long (13 pages), it is overwhelmingly impressive. Everybody likes to travel but after the first couple of years, spending hundreds even thousands of hours in transit with airport lines, baggage terminals, customs lines and passport control the novelty wears off. The extent of her travels when looked at unbiased begin to appear almost supernatural in themselves. At a minimum this is a person who is highly motivated. Maybe 4 - 8 major international tours a year is reasonable but 1 - 2 trips a month? This trip will go from Rome to Northern Canada across the USA and end in San Francisco. What do I pack for such diverse temperature changes? How will I cope with a ten-hour time change?
Thousands of people look forward to these meetings, from Bishops and Priests to lay people. From those in desperate need to those seeking only a little encouragement. In some places people have been preparing for these visits for months. This is no trip to a resort or Disneyland for Vassula these tours are hard work that she does without complaint and joy in her heart.
When I first met Vassula and saw how tired she was - I thought why â€“ why does she put herself through this? All these trips and travels to speak - why doesnâ€™t she stay home and let the books do the work? I honestly did not understand. Now I do. She does it for love of Jesus, obedience to His will and love of fellow humanity.
Vassula is as Jesus calls her His "message bearer" and His "Jewel". Meeting Vassula in person for an individual whose soul inclines towards goodness is a tremendous confirmation of the messages. Such meetings bring the messages off the page and into reality. Her meetings bring the messages alive, make them more real because her presence is Jesusâ€˜s echo. There has always been a living flesh and blood tradition in Christianity. From the original Apostles, the Saints, the line of Priests east and west in all the orders, down through the ages. The tradition has always been person to person. This is "Jesus style". A theologian friend of mine once told me that in the early church it was a BIG deal if your teacher was a student of a student of an original apostle. Part of the reason was, the apostles knew the Master, how he spoke, the gestures he made, where in his words he placed emphasis. This was passed on in the early Church and cherished. In Vassulaâ€™s case part of the reason her presence can make a big difference for people is she sees and hears the living Christ. She knows Jesus personally and by His grace through her, we can get an echo of what he is like.
By the grace of God I was asked to accompany Vassula on the second part of her North American tour to bring the Good News from the Two Hearts and the most Holy Trinity to thirsty people in need of the Living Word. To go on such a mission is indeed grace and grace by the bucketful!!! The opportunity to learn from the Jewel of Jesus, His appointed messenger, lessons in spiritual excellence and how to run the good race! (sometimes quite literally we ran through the airport!). Her diligence and effort to do what she can do which includes allowing HIM to do what she cannot do. As he directed her; "Do your best, I will do the rest". I saw with my own eyes the charity of the work Vassula does. It is hard to do! Just showing up is a feat in itself, international travel disturbs a personâ€™s system; time zone changes, weather changes, food changes all these shake you up. I slept no more than 3.5 hours a night and Vassula got little more than that. When I was ready to collapse from physical exhaustion she was usually just heading towards the podium for a 2-3 hour talk and healing service. No matter how tired she looked before her scheduled talk her whole countenance changed as I met her at the room of her hotel to escort her to the dayâ€™s meeting. As she was promised by Jesus, His grace sustained her throughout.
It is no coincidence that this 2-part tour began in the United Nations in New York. It ended in San Francisco at the Herbst Theatre where the UN Charter was signed 50 years prior. Godâ€™s messenger of Peace and Love brought his message to the places where mankind strives for global Peace and Brotherhood. It is as if the striving from below with all of its failures and incompleteness was still met with a response from above. As Bob Carroll mentioned at every meeting, the woman who organized the UN talk in New York had a poster of Jesus knocking on the window of the UN building on her office wall. When the lady counted up the stories of the building it was the very floor and window of her own office.
Shawinigan, Canada - Sunday November 15th 1998
The Presence of God
In retrospect the whole trip resembled a rosary for me. The "Our Father" is Shawinigan. Each City from there; one decade of the Rosary: Ottowa, St. Louis, Houston, Denver and San Francisco. As Abraham consecrated the land of Israel through walking itâ€™s length and building alters to God. Today The Father sends his prophet around the globe building new altars, but this time in human hearts.
After a one hour delay through immigration, three men met us at the airport in Montreal; Benjamin, Jean and Jacques. I did not speak one word of French but their faces told me all I needed to know - boy were they happy to see Vassula!!! Our hosts handed Vassula roses and packed us in the car for a two hour drive up north. We had already been in transit for about 17 hours. We arrived around 10 PM to the Prayer House of Father Parent with light snow on the ground. Father Parent "country" is easy to know when you arrive because you feel the presence of God. What Peace in this place! At 4am I went to raid the Kitchen â€“ a ten hour time zone change had me confused as to what meal I was seeking but sure enough as I went by the little chapel there was Father praying. At 8am the same morning he conducted a mass full of young people from a nearby drug rehabilitation center. Pretty good for an 87-year-old! Father Parent struck me as a real shepherd and his love for Vassula and her mission is immense.
After breakfast at the prayer house we were picked up again by the three hosts (I kept wondering if these guys were real people or angelic messengers - like in the grove of Mamre with Abraham - really!) and they drove us into the town of Shawinigan. Here they had arranged for a special tour of the observation tower overlooking Shawinigan which had closed a month prior but was opened by the local proprietor in special honor of Vassulaâ€™s visit! A glass elevator took us up one of the highest observation towers in Canada, where we could see 360 degrees; the town and out beyond to the northern Canadian wilderness. A driving tour through Shawinigan brought us to a restaurant where Vassula signed many copies The Enigma of Vassula, a French bestseller that the local organizers brought with them for autographs.
After lunch it was on to the meeting at the town auditorium/theatre. A crowd of almost 1000 enthusiastically listened to Vassula impart the messages. Several people had driven many hours to attend. The head organizer was so happy with Vassula and the talk that as he gave thanks he broke into tears being overcome with joy. After the talk Vassula gave an interview to a local journalist.
After dinner we went to the 7pm mass then drove an hour back to the guesthouse of Father Louis Marie Parent where we grabbed our luggage and were driven by Henri Lemay to Ottowa. This was a three-hour drive. We arrived around 1am. Thus completed another 17-hour day. Glory be to God and His Great Plan of Salvation!
Ottowa, Ontario - November 16th, 1998
Jesus Gathers His People
Vassula the "small flower" of the Lord returned again to Ottowa and itâ€™s harvest fields. Here is where Henri Lemay and his dedicated co-workers cultivate the "crops" of souls and where Vassula brought His Living Word to irrigate and thus refresh almost 1000 people. Regardless of the long day yesterday and the late night drive, at 9am Vassula was in the recording studio of Henri Lemay at his center called; Jesus Gathers His People. Here he produces 90 minutes a week of Christian programming. From 9am to 5pm Vassula taped 9 programs with Henri. After a short dinner break the evening presentation was given. Today was a big push for her. An audience of 1000 people joyfully received words from the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the theme of Intimacy with the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit. Afterwards a group healing prayer was offered and then those most sick and in pressing need of healing prayer met behind the stage in the sacristy of this former church. Several people cried as Vassula prayed over them.
The next morning we met with the Local True Life in God Prayer group run by Steve Bishop. This group had many toddlers! The parents bring their children to the prayer meeting with them in the daytime. The group is shepherded by a local priest. Vassula had a lunch meeting with close childhood friends of hers from Cairo who now lived in the Ottowa area. Everybody felt great joy at this surprise re-union. We then proceeded straightway to the airport for a 3pm flight. Jesus is gathering his people in Canada!
St. Louis, Missouri - November 18th and 19th, 1998
From the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the Heart of America
Godâ€™s small flower carrying His message of Peace and Love entered the USA through the city of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia Pennsylvania. After a two hour lay-over, we connected with a flight for St. Louis which was delayed an extra hour because someone threw a plastic cup down the toilet of the aircraft.
We finally arrived at the Home of Brian Selsor close to 11pm very tired. Tuesday the 18th I had the day free after spending the night in a local supposedly haunted guesthouse, near Brian Selsors.
Vassula spent the day with her son, who is a college student. This allowed me a little extra time to see the Mississippi and the town of Kimmswick where Brian is Mayor. Even though I lived in the USA for 35years and traveled coast to coast several times I never saw the Mississippi. A perfect autumn day in the Heartland of America. Very different from the Middle East! The Mississippi had small waves and a strong wind was blowing across it. The water was very turbid, brown in color. A solitary riverboat made itâ€™s way slowly up stream. In the town of Kimmswick the old time craft shops had their Christmas goods for sale. I noticed after several hours of browsing I could not find an adult image of Jesus nor anything with a crucifix. There were a few nativity sets made in China but the rest of the goods seemed to be non-religious items evoking sentimentality rather than devotion.
Sentimentality rather than devotion - I only perceived this after I asked Jesus to inspire me to buy Vassula a small gift. I said to Him; "Jesus you are not here walking around with money in your pocket, I am, please lead me to buy Vassula something you would want her to have." It was only then that I began to notice what I just mentioned.
The American tour seemed different in character from Canada. America seems more sleepy. The organizers and local prayer groups are in a position similar to the one Vassula was in when the messages first began to be spread about. Like the murky Mississippi had America traded cultivating inner beauty, the inner life of goodness, prayer and worship of God for an outer life of comfort, ease and leisure? Had they traded the "True Life in God" for a worthless imitation - the so called "good Life"?
Why are there not millions and millions of copies of The True Life in God Messages in the hands of the American People? Why in this empire of wealth and media and communications are the meetings only having 300-400 people? While up in the Canadian small town, no one ever heard of, there are a 1000 people? The local organizers worked real hard to make the meetings and their effort and desire to please God is certainly beyond any reproach, and their effort is much greater than mine. But why has the message not spread further in my native country? These are the thoughts that preoccupied me on my free day.
Thursday, Nov 19th 1998
Vassulaâ€™s talk that evening. was at the Viking Hotel. Patti Potoglou of the Vineyard prayer group bulletin also now joined our travels with her great enthusiasm to serve the Lord and his message. Volunteers from Trinitas drove 250 miles from Independence, Missouiri with True Life in God books and tapes and set up a book table for the presentation. The messages are now in 37 languages, all as a result of volunteer effort. As everyone who knows her can attest, Vassula accepts no money for the books or for speaking, only travel expenses for her labor of love in obedience to God. Those who publish the messages do so as a ministry using any profit to fund later volumes or to diffuse the messages free of charge to those who cannot afford to buy books and tapes.
Freezing rain that evening kept the meeting fairly small so Vassula was able to pray over each person with a relic of the true cross held in a crucifix. More than half of the people rested in the spirit. Afterwards we heard several complete sets of the messages were sold together, indicating new people were at the talk. A good portion of the message was on The Holy Mother, Mary. Vassula commented to me later, she felt there were a lot of Protestants in the audience who needed to hear about her and all the abundant intercession she unceasingly provides. After the talk we escaped away from the crowds to get something to eat. We found a private room for Vassula off the main hotel restaurant. Soon enough people found us! One person had been puzzled over an experience he had been having for years and years and he was hoping to ask Vassula if she thought " God is trying to tell me something". Vassula said to him; "when God Talks he talks clearly , God is a God of Clarity". Her answer was full of compassion for this person who had been intrigued by these experiences for so long.
Houston, Texas - Friday November 20th
The "Lily of His Heart" goes deep into the Heart of Texas
The previous day we had visited Vassulaâ€™s son in college with Sister Dorothy and Brian and Brianâ€™s mom. Sister Dorothy had terminal cancer and had a complete remission while at Medjugorje. The saintly kindness in sisterâ€™s face and voice go beyond words. Her love of Vassula and the True Life in God Message is unbounded. I was beginning to see a pattern. How come all these Saintly nuns and priests are associated with the message? Are all nuns and priests so saintly? I mean really inspiring people who radiate His light? On meeting these people one feels an immediate bond of love and gratitude that such souls even exist, as examples and teachers and Shepherds for all of us.
After breakfast with friends of True Life in God who had driven 10 hours to hear Vassula, we checked out of the hotel to go straight to the airport. We landed in Houston about 3pm and were met at the airport by the local organizers Ruta and Ian Hodgson. We were driven about 40 minutes to the Hotel where we could change and grab an hour rest. At 6 p.m. we went over to the beautiful meeting place which was a Presbyterian Church. After a wonderful musical introduction Vassula gave her presentation followed by a group healing prayer. The "lily of His Heart" is able to impart such inspiring words because of the closeness of the Holy spirit to her and the Holy Spirit is close to her in order that she may impart His Blessedness. About 350 people attended the talk and many of the people were entirely new to the Messages.
Several people in each city had the same questions. Vassula displays great patience in answering even simple questions. I would get weary real fast going over again and again and again the same things but she views this aspect of the mission like being a schoolteacher. Some teachers have to repeat the dayâ€™s lesson several times and bring renewed enthusiasm each time. Many want to know about other seers or visionaries and if their messages are true. Vassula sometimes makes general observations. She said that messages warning people to stockpile food or to move to a certain locale are not from God. "God is asking us to change our hearts not our fridge or storerooms", she said. Consistently over the past 13 years the messages have alway advocated intimacy with God the Father and through knowing him we can begin to really love him. Always they stress effacing ourselves so there is less of us and more of Him. Always they stress going deeper in our conversion, deeper in our faith, deeper in our prayer from the heart. Never do they emphasize salvation will come through material means. Always we are directed to devotion to the Holy Trinity and the intercessory prayers of the Holy Mother and Saints. This model of spirituality is consistent with the teachings of the New Testament: "seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven and all things shall be added unto thee". We heard after the meeting that there were many new people and many young people who afterwards stayed around a long time-they were so inspired by the talk they simply did not want to go home!
Denver, Colorado Nov 21st, 1998
In the Rocky Mountains His Sacred Heart seeks to replace our "Rocky" Hearts
After breakfast at the local organizers we were off for the airport and Denver. Vassula is allergic to "everything": cats, dogs, dust, and mold, even humidity! â€“ basically â€“ this world! Here a little past the halfway point I was concerned that she was alright as she looked really exhausted. Later she confided her stomach was upset as well. Denver airport is the largest in the world; 58 square miles and a subway is taken to get to the luggage carousel. After completing this we got to our hotel and had a couple of hours for a snack and preparation for the meeting at 7pm. Over 400 people were in attendance including Orthodox and Catholic Priests. Our host had arranged music and live praise and worship by a talented group
Then Vassula prayed one decade of the rosary in Aramaic as she had done at the earlier meetings, and spent a little time going over her background for new people. How she started from a complete zero, the early oppositions where she was regarded as "schizophrenic" (this actually made her more determined, in order to prove she wasnâ€™t crazy!) How Fr. "X" thought she was from Satan and how God told Vassula in a solemn, grave and sad voice; "I will bend him". The essence of the message of True Life in God, Vassula told us, was: "Reconciliation and Unity". Unity among family, friends and Churches. Division comes from Satan. Diabalo means to divide. On the contrary Jesus Christ wants to "consolidate my Church". God now pours out his Holy Spirit because we are filled up with dead words. His message is like raindrops in the desert.
In the beginning when Vassula was put through purification by her angel and she came to see the "real Vassula" she said she felt, "I do not deserve to walk among people I should be cut into small pieces and thrown to the Hyenas". We were instructed to ask God to help us see our sins and if we are reprimanded it is because we deserve it and it is his way to draw us up higher and closer to Him. The classic story Vassula related at several meetings that always brought sighs from the crowd was when God the Father taught Vassula how to feel his presence as if she had known him all of her life. This tender intimacy with the Father made him seem so familiar that she let slip out of her mouth the word "Dad". She recoiled with fear she had been disrespectful, but the Father proceeded to say to her; "Daughter do not fear I have taken this word in my hand like a jewel". After the talk Vassula gave a group healing prayer then proceeded straight to her room. The faithful servant of God needed rest to be ready for the trip to San Francisco the next morning.
San Francisco, Sunday November 22nd
A Circle of Peace and Love is Completed
After a Mass given in Patti Potoglouâ€™s hotel room we had just enough time to get to the airport for the flight to San Francisco. The plane ride was so turbulent that we were joking at least 5-10 people were having conversion experiences in the rear of the cabin! Vassula has a wonderful sense of humor that lifted everybodyâ€™s spirits all through the journey.
We arrived in a cloudy, foggy and rainy, San Francisco, at our Hotel around 5pm. This gave us a little over an hour to make preparations for the meeting and to coordinate with the local organizers Steve, Stella and Tom. The Herbst theatre is right across from City Hall and is a historic building. Over the main - inside entry foyer is a giant oil painting depicting the signing of the UN Charter 50 years earlier almost to the day. About 450 people filled up the theatre as beautiful baroque hymns played quietly over the sound system.
As at all the other meetings Bob Carroll introduced Vassula and brought to peopleâ€™s attention two books by Fr. Oâ€™Connor that reach the conclusion: reading and even promoting the messages is not contrary to the directives from the Vatican. He also, as in every other meeting, mentioned two tapes produced by Henri Lemay in Canada. These Videos are unique teachings by Vassula on the" Ten Commandments" and "New Heaven, New Earth."
A local priest, Father Tom Burke gave a very humorous introduction to Vassula. He said that in decades of Homilies only one time did someone write him a letter about how moving it had been. That homily, he admitted, had been taken from the True Life in God Messages! God had told Vassula back in Bangladesh he would send his message around the world. Here on this trip alone we had traveled already over 10,000 kilometers.
Vassula gave some strong messages in San Francisco. Many people complain and donâ€™t accept the cross that Jesus gives to them. Rather than complaining our attitude can be, that to share his cross is a favor. He asks us to; "Come and embrace my cross, by embracing my cross you are embracing me". God wants us to be generous and Vassula related a story where her niece asked her for something religious for her new apartment. Vassula said;" sure take anything you want." As fate would have it, she picked out a statue of our Holy Mother given to her by a Lutheran Minister that was particularly precious to her. But she graciously gave it to her niece anyway. Sure enough the next day a friend brought a present to her home â€“ the same statue! So Vassula was able to trade it to get back the one given to her by the Lutherans. God wants us to really trust him. One thing he particularly doesnâ€™t like is tepidity. God wants us to enter into our conversion with complete sincerity.
After the talk Vassula prayed individually over each person with the relic of the cross. Many rested in the spirit. Several people were crying. One report came of a person seeing Jesus's full face instead of Vassula's and I myself saw clearly Vassula's face streaming dark almost rust colored blood over more than half of her face. Thus ended these travels with the chosen messenger who with her Shepherd's heart gave her best to bring His Love Hymn to the people of North America. Praised be the Lord! All glory be to God!