It’s been one month since the New Brunswick Christian Ashram, the fourth and final 75th celebration. I have had time to process and reflect on my experiences over a summer of deep relationships in communities of faith. This internship was, without a doubt, one of the most valuable doors that God has opened for me in this season of my life and ministry.
In my Open Heart post, I discussed how honesty and vulnerability are foundations to a meaningful community. I admitted to being broken and in need of togetherness, compassion, and family. So I prayed for an awareness of and willingness to receive the blessings and challenges that God would provide through the Christian Ashram. And alleluia! God answered those prayers.
The Holy Spirit sanctified my soul this summer. Prayer has given me attentiveness to the Spirit’s whispers and willingness to let Christ fill the gaps that only Christ can fill. The deep loneliness that was once heavily upon my heart has been lifted and replaced with contentment, the likes of which I have never before felt. No longer am I clothed in a façade of solitude, now knowing that people around the continent are praying for me meaningfully and intentionally. My needs for companionship and community, along with the understanding that I am not alone, were attended to and healed.
I have learned that we are not meant to be Jesus, but to be like Jesus. The phrase “W.W.J.D.” should really say, “What would Jesus want me to do?” Jesus was perfect and sinless, and he fulfilled his ministry by bearing all divine justice for imperfection and sin. In return, we live not as slaves to sin, but as the free daughters and sons of God! Therefore, let us not dwell on our transgressions—or the transgressions of others—and celebrate the forgiveness of sins through the Word made flesh, because nobody is perfect. We may consign and concede love. But we also consign and concede hate. And if we choose not to treat one another with grace, we choose to treat one another with mercilessness. The Christian Ashram, just like every church, community, and family, consists of broken people. And these broken people welcomed me with benevolence, embraced me with sincerity, and fostered me as kin. They showed me compassion and care, they listened to me, and they guided me to the feet of Jesus. They lived as Jesus would have wanted them: graciously.
I want to thank the United Christian Ashram for this opportunity. Specifically, I want to thank Tom Albin for considering me as this summer’s intern, Anne Mathews-Younes and Paul Gohil for sharing testimonies about E Stanley Jones and the Sat Tal Christian Ashram at the four 75th anniversary events, and JT Adkins for walking with me through three of the four Christian Ashrams, for making every moment teachable and laughable, and for a great motorcycle ride through the Minnesota prairie grasslands. Thank you, Evangelists and Bible Teachers, for enriching my faith, expanding my theology, enlivening my spirit, and encouraging my heart. But most of all, thank you, California family, Texas family, Minnesota family, and New Brunswick family, for all your love and support, your prayers and blessings, and your unfailing acceptance of a nervous man always in a baseball cap and behind a camera. Leaving each of the Christian Ashrams was extremely difficult, and it’s even worse to know that I won’t be able to call each of these home. My time with you has deepened my life and faith in ineffable ways. And for that, I am thankful beyond words.
I love the United Christian Ashram. I cannot stress enough that my words do little justice when it comes to the incredible power of the Holy Spirit, a power that you can experience for yourself if you choose to attend a Christian Ashram Retreat. There truly is nothing quite like it. Come alone, come with friends, come with family, come with anyone! I guarantee that you will leave feeling alive and more aware of God’s presence in your life. May God bless the United Christian Ashram for another seventy-five years to inspire the transformation of all persons to be followers of Jesus Christ, and thereby discover, renew, and deepen relationships with God, ourselves, and others.
This is my overflowing heart.
By Tom Dearduff