Recent comments following SPIN Marriage Retreat:
It is 2 weeks tomorrow that we made that quiet drive to Columbia. We arrived with tension and irritation - we left with a renewed commitment to our marriage and our relationship. We arrived not praying with each other - we left with the resources and promise to each other to take time to communicate and pray together. I arrived broken - I left healed and with a clean heart.
Jim and I enjoyed the weekend, especially the opportunity to try different prayer styles as a couple, and to get to really focus on one another and our spiritual lives as a couple. We've incorporated the conversational prayer into our family prayer time, and while we're all still getting used to it, our kids have been really positive about it.
This weekend was AMAZING! I know that will be referring back to this retreat throughout my life as a spiritual turning point for myself and in our marriage.
Spring Break ‘08–man, was I pumped! Forget staying home, forget Florida, I was going
all out–out of the country that is–to Mexico. I’d been planning to go with a large group from my
school since October. I would go to Reynosa, a border-town, with girls from my school and a
larger mission group called Strategic Alliance, spending our week-long spring break in service to
the poor in a section of the city called the “Colonia.” The information I received indicated we
would be building houses under a program called “homes for the homeless” in the course of four
very full days. What I came to realize in those few days was the implicit difference between the
words “home” and “house” which changed my perspective about humanity forever.
The first morning in the Colonia was hot and bright. The thing I noticed first was the
road–if one could even call it that. It was broken up, like old concrete, but packed down at the
same time. It did not have the smooth consistency a street should have with rubber and shoes
poking up from the dirt. This place was literally built on a packed down trash dump. Wow. I
looked towards the lot where I would be building the house with my teammates; it was only
empty, barren space. Materially, these people had nothing, absolutely nothing I would ever
consider a luxury. The bathrooms? Holes in the ground with three little walls and a curtain. The
fences? Mattress box springs. The dogs? Disease infested and hundreds of them roam the streets,
playing and fighting.
Yet, amidst this poverty, I immediately caught that the atmosphere surrounding me was
not one of dismal gloom, but rather, one of laughter and smiles. Up ahead were children, running
to greet us, begging us to pull them into our arms. We did. And we played. And, boy, we did not
stop playing with those kids until we left that country. When I initially spoke to the children
around us, the first nail from my service work was hammered into the home of my heart. These
children’s faces will never leave me, for they taught me what true love really is. Sure, there were
discrepancies and rifts between them, but there was a solidarity between the kids, a desire to help
each other and learn new things. Their smiling, snotty, dirt smudged faces revealed eyes that
loved hard work and one another. Their love was pure, and because they shared it with me, I
cannot be the same.
Building the actual house took a bit more patience and time to construct than did my
relationships with the Mexican children. Every wall had to be painted, both inside and out and
legions of nails had to be hammered. However, my small team of eleven had much help.
Everyone on the street on which we were building pitched in a hand to help. We were building
for Roberto, a 68-year-old man; he was loved and respected as a community “abuelito”
(grandfather) to all. There was no “I” effort; everyone available (including Roberto himself)
worked together: we built, we hammered, we painted, we sweat, we ached, we bled, we
sunburned, we cut, and we stretched our comfort zones that week. It was not easy, but within two
days, four walls and a partial roof was up on Roberto’s new house. How rewarding it was to give
so much! However, that just describes physical service. What happened that week reaches far
deeper into a mental, emotional, and spiritual realm almost ineffable.
Almost ineffable. Almost, but not quite. See, regardless of language, of social stature, of
race, of any human construct or boundary, every single person on this here earth is human. We
are all one and united in that. A smile is universal. A genuine care is as well. Together, we all
work with one another in sharing our gifts and talents to help one each other take that next step;
in short, we use our gifts to help one another. I myself speak a bit of Spanish, but not everyone I
was with did. I saw myself being used as a translator. A connector between lives and hearts. I
was needed, just as every person I met and worked with was needed. However, the one thing that
kept us all working together was an open mind. Even though I spoke Spanish, one particular
good friend of mine showed me what it meant to truly speak the universal human language
through her actions and playful love. She spoke no Spanish, but fully connected and fell in love
with a young little boy, Augustine. Augustine would run from my friend and together the two
would play tag and tickle each other and just enjoying that moment of life together, no words
necessary. You see, communicating with a common language of love taught my friend and I that
serving goes much further than building a house, it involves building homes in hearts.
Across the street from Roberto’s house lived Mary and her three children. I ended up
getting to know Mary very well through a conversation we had on my fourth day in the Colonia.
She told me about her family’s living conditions before Strategic Alliance had come to build
them a house. They had a roof but no floorboards then, so the structure always leaked. I looked in
her face and realized this was the reality most of the world encountered on a daily basis. She then
asked me how I liked the Colonia and if playing with the children was too tiring (I think she was
half-apologizing for her kids always climbing on me). I told her it made me really happy to be
there and build houses like her new one for people. I said even though it did get a bit tiring
playing and working all at the same time, I loved it in the Colonia. Mary was very confused. She
asked me, laughing, why I like “being with we poor?!” My response reflected the change that
happened in me and the openness within me that week. I told her, “Being here makes me happy
because you have here something that is not back at my home. It is not about ‘the poor’; you
teach us how to trust, help others continuously, and love.” She smiled and reminded me that it all
gives glory back to God, too. You see, that conversation between Mary and I showed me in a
very tangible way that common human existence and helping others is a shared effort and
something I should strive to live and connect with everyday. I will never forget this single
conversation between Mary and I because she taught me something about the way to truly live.
She, and all of her friends, family, and neighbors, showed me the truth of what it means to trust
and live for others. She helped me realize that life really isn’t about the “poor” and the “not
poor,” it’s about everyone using their own gifts to add more life to God’s glory.
God’s glory was revealed in so many ways when I was in Reynosa. Service was shown
not only through my own service of building a house, but through the reciprocal service of love
between those I served and myself. Service is not something “others” do. Service is not even
always a conscious effort. Service is when you are hot and tired, sitting on rocks next to a
mattress-spring fence and a three-year-old with her shoes on the wrong feet comes and snuggles
unasked into your lap. Service is when an eight-year-old will not take a break from hammering
and helping build his adoptive “abuelito’s” house with his new American friends. Service is
when you ask a young child to show you where the prettiest flowers are and she takes you to her
own garden and proceeds to give you the sweetest smelling, most vibrantly colored rose you have
ever seen. Service is conversation with a native Mexican without any frustration as you
mispronounce every other Spanish word. Service is love. Love is trust. Trust is faith. Faith is a
gift from God, ergo, service as an action of love is a gift from God as well. Really, it is a question
of what we do with the gift. Do we let it sit, unused, or do we give it away, as a gift of love, using
it for others? Humans are united in that we are children of God. No matter race, religion, social
class, or gender, we are all Divinely Created with a purpose. How we use that purpose and what
we use it for is an individual choice.
My purpose was fulfilled in my service while physically building Roberto’s house.
However, no matter the type, location, or reason for service, all have a call to serve others in a
unique way. I strongly encourage every person reading to examine the gifts and talents you have
been given, looking not at how you can benefit from them, but how you can give them away for
others’ benefits. Genesis Ministries, for example, both verbally supported and generously shared
their financial gifts with me so I could partake in the Mexico Mission Trip, spreading the gifts
they have been given to benefit the world at large (Thank you!!). Indeed, all of us have a call, but
to different things, depending on who we are and with what we have been gifted. I urge you to
see where you are being sent and how you can serve more fully in a new or different way. I found
purpose building homes in the hearts and lives of those around me, as each individual person
constructed a home of service within my own heart–a home where we will keep each other safe
and treasured, living within the values our relationships represent in order to witness to these
values within our lives more powerfully. So what is your purpose at this moment? Small or large,
service, though a scary word at times, brings a peace and insight that will help anyone understand
the beauty of a “home.”
We all have the capacity
To speak a language not our own
It tells of Love and Compassion
of Trust, and Hope, and Truth
By giving we can realize the beauty from above
And that describes the Language of Love
-from “Blooming Language” by Liz Halfmann
Whenever I think of your face, I see a bright light shining and full of joy, an inner joy that is obviously not coming from the world or the result of the circumstances around you. I see and sense my Lord Jesus shining brightly from you. I sense a true peace coming from you, and a desire that’s not a heavy burden, but sincere, that everyone else around you come to the same freedom. Without even trying you pass on the light of Christ.
Love forever, Patricia
Dear Elizabeth,You have blessed my life in so many ways! Praise be to God for your devotion, love, humility and obedience. As His precious child you have touched many lives and brought Him such joy as you pray and work for the Kingdom of God.Your warmth, patience, compassion and love have touched me deeply and I’m so grateful. You have such strength of integrity, faithfulness and encouragement. Truly God’s love is manifested in you life. Keep shining mighty warrior – the best is yet to come. You have the victor’s crown coming.Love, peace and prayers, Joyce
"Dear Deacon Dennis God bless you, I have a praise report!! You and my family prayed for me for God to heal me from a schitzoeffective disorder that has to do with my thinking, God has healed me!!! very much God is healing me, Jeremy very fast. I remember you mentioned we pray as Jesus instructed. I see that your prayers have made a difference. I believe all your prayers make a difference! I am happy for me my, Mom agree's. God bless you. keep it up. I'll tell you I'll add you to my nightly prayers and pray for you all my life. My son Alex is 12 he's happy." The Peace of The Risen Christ be with you sincerely Jeremy Burns
Dear Elizabeth,You are truly one of those beautiful people who have touched me deeply in my life. You show such true, great love to everyone you meet. It always fills the heart with joy when you are near.You continuously encourage us to use our gifts. You and Dennis truly inspire us.With love and prayers, Jeff
Thank you for everything that you have gifted me with…
Thank you for saying ‘yes’ to Him. Thank you for loving me and thank you for being a guide and light to His promise and truth. Our prayer times have helped to set my little girl inside free. They have helped her to own the fact that she is beautiful, a child of God, God’s princess & because of that she can dance, celebrate, and freely praise the one who has made her. She can dance among the sunflowers and rejoice in His goodness!
I love you, Nikki
Deacon Dennis & Elizabeth:
Thank-you very much for coming to our house last night and leading us through a powerful time of healing counsel and prayer. It's very obvious to my wife and I that the two of you are exactly where God wants you to be. We really appreciated your wisdom, insights and the portions of your own healing journey that you shared with us.
It was a gift to be with you both, and most of all, a gift to be in the presence of the Holy Spirit. I pray that He seals the work that took place last night, and that the opening to His Light would continue.
God's Grace and Peace be with you both.- Anonymous
I have explored several avenues to healing in my life and I have taken advantage of counseling, seminars, books on various self help and spiritual topics, meditation, prayer, tapes, videos etc… and have been helped in many ways along the way.
I discovered on my journey, in seeking answers to healing my life that logic, reason and knowledge (coming to understand how hurtful situations or events affected me) in and of themselves, while important were not always effective. Distortions in my perception of myself, of others and of God weren’t formed at the level of my intellect only but were imprinted at the level of my spirit and being.
I have prayed often for God to heal me and to show me what I needed to do and felt God asking me to open my heart to Him more often.
I read about theophostic healing on the website @ www.theophostichealing.com and was directed to Dennis Chitwood of Genesis Ministries through a friend.
Dennis guided me through a couple of theophostic prayer sessions and encouraged me to continue using it as he taught me how to pray this way on my own..
The next afternoon I asked the Holy Spirit to show me where I was most wounded and to please heal me.
I sat in prayer paying attention to my thoughts and feelings, not really feeling any particular connection to any of them.
Then a particular memory came into my awareness. This memory was different in the sense that it seemed to ‘come to me’ as a separate thought not connected to what I was thinking…almost like it was brought into my awareness. At first I pushed it out because it felt like a disruption in thought.
It came back again more vividly, and as I turned my attention to it, it flooded my mind without any effort on my part.
The longer I stayed with the image the more my senses were brought into that moment, so much so that it didn’t seem like a memory at all, but rather something I was living.
The memory was of a painful experience I’d had in my childhood, pivotal in that it was the culmination of my father’s rejection of me. I was 17 years old then.
Of course I had thought about this memory many times before. I had talked about it many times with friends and counselor; I wrote about it in my journal and prayed many times about forgiving my father for his words and actions.
This time was quite different. The Lord showed me that I was still living out of the lies
my father told me.
I became aware of just how deeply my father’s rejection crippled my sense of personal
power and the domino effect this has had on my life.
I knew in my mind that how he had treated me wasn’t really about me, but about his
woundedness and knew that I had forgiven him in my heart, but now, with the inspiration
of the Holy Spirit
I was acutely aware that I was still very much identified with these experience.
Then, in the presence of the Lord I felt
my-self being separated (as being separate) from all that had happen.
I felt love flowing into me and a sense of being lifted up and out of the oppression. Self contempt was being replaced with the love of God in my heart. I cried and thanked God for doing this for me. This whole experience lasted about 45 minutes.
Since the Theophostic prayer experience I feel a deeper awareness of Gods presence in me and in my life…..a new power and freedom….to love God, myself and others…a deeper sense of peace and healthier inner dialog with myself.
I have come to understand over the years that when conditions are such (especially in childhood), the sinful energy of abuse bonds to and binds the abused persons spirit to that energy.
We seek to heal ourselves in many ways, and all these things are good…but what then,
When you feel you have exhausted every thing you know to do for your healing and still find yourself identified with and affected by it. We can do much to help ourselves through psychology but only God redeems our lives through the work of the Holy Spirit.
This is Good News of the gospel:
“He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed!”
Luke 4: 18-19.
Thank You Jesus, Our redeemer!! Anonymous
"I consider it a blessing to have had the opportunity to learn and grow in my Catholic Christian walk under the loving guidance of Dennis and Elizabeth Chitwood. Through their knowledge of Scripture, their tender counsel, and their Spirit-filled example of living life in pursuit of holiness, I know my life, my family, and my ministry will forever be benefited by these two partners in Christ." - Erik B. Taylor
"Since my arrival in St. Louis and my introduction to Deacon Dennis and Elizabeth at a Life In The Spirit Seminar, they have inspired and encouraged me through individual prayers, counseling and healing ministry. Their generosity in time, teaching and friendship has led me to a new life in Christ and has opened my heart to the true purpose we all possess; love of Jesus Christ and others, as we surrender all to Him." - Linda Murray