Visiting the Mother Ship and Finding Hope

When meetings took me to Kansas City, I extended my stay a couple of days.  I can’t come to KC and not go to IHOP (www.ihop.org)!  It had been years since I had personally visited the Mother Ship, the ministry that had to radically altered my walk with God and the course of my life’s direction, and I was eager to plug in and fuel up.

The Global Prayer Room (the one we see on the live webcast, and called the GPR by locals) was orderly and beautiful.  Comfy chairs. Quiet congregation.  Fantastic music and singing. Passionate prayer.

My response was not what I expected.  I felt out of place and disconnected.  I persevered for a couple hours, and then with some relief escaped to meet Kirk and Dee Bennett, IHOP leaders who have walked with us over the years.

Over dinner I explained to them GOHOP’s journey, and when I was done, Kirk picked up his phone.  “You have got to see Hope City,” he said.  “Let me get you there.”

The next morning I was picked up, whisked off to a sketchy neighborhood, and dropped off at a low lying, run down building with bars on the windows.  Founded by IHOP, Hope City (www.hopecitykc.org) is an inner city house of prayer that runs a prayer room, but also serves free lunches every day, provides laundry and shower facilities, and groceries each week to their impoverished neighbors.

Their prayer space was a striking contrast to the GPR.  Ramshackle room.  Aged sound equipment.  One of the singers was a young mum, and sang with her baby on her lap.  Another was heavily tattooed, and intermingled rapping with the singing and prayer.

In the back of the room, scruffy men snored softly.  An elderly woman with apparent dementia rocked happily back and forth to the music.  The main prayer leader was a wise and wizened African American grandma, whose heart was broken for the younger generation.  Children in grubby clothes scrambled over the seats.

Ah, this was more like it!  I settled in, finally feeling at home.

The Faces of New Monasticism in Winnipeg

I was about two blocks away when, mortified, I realized what had happened.  “Jamie!” I texted, “Tell the restaurant I walked out without paying, that I’ll be right back!”

“No problem,” he texted back, “Taken care of.”

Hardly the first impression I wanted to make on Jamie Arpin-Ricci, the Abbot of the Little Flowers Community (little flowers.ca), but he responded with the graciousness I’m learning to expect from the many New Monastics I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in my travels.

I was very curious about Jamie.  I had been enjoying his blog www.missional.ca.  Little Flowers is a fusion of YWAM, Mennonite, and Anglican Franciscanism – which seemed to me to be an eclectic and engaging mix.  I was amused and encouraged to see that when he came to lunch, he was carrying Christine Pohl’s latest book, Living into Community – Cultivating Practices to Sustain Us, which I had just finished the day before.  On some things, we were on the same page.

On many things, actually.  Jamie is all about incarnational living in his tough West End neighbourhood.  Living a life of loving service.  And evidently, paying for the lunches of eat-and-runners like myself.

I had an ambitious agenda for my weekend in Winnipeg – to connect with three New Monastic expressions in the city.  So after my lunch with Jamie I made my way to PegWatch, in the northeast quadrant of town.  There I met with Jonathan and Carolyn Mutch, who this month are celebrating seven years of nonstop 24/7 prayer in the cutest little prayer house you ever did see.

whew! scheduling all the slots for 24/7!

These guys are my heroes.  Many of us in Canada are dreaming about and moving towards 24/7 prayer in our facilities, and these guys demonstrate that IT CAN BE DONE!  It’s more Moravian style, with individuals signing up for one hour slots in the prayer house.

Later in the weekend I visited Brian Creary (random note of happenstance – Brian was the leader of a full time worship school I attended in BC 17 years ago!) and his fantastic team of young leaders of the Sanctuary House of Prayer (www.sanctuaryhop.com) in central Winnipeg. SHOP runs 7-8 hours of Harp and Bowl style worship and prayer each Sunday afternoon and evening, and being there felt very much like being down at IHOP (www.ihop.org).

They let me sing in a set and then they spent half an hour prophesying over me as a community!  How’s that for a warm welcome?  SHOP’s fledgling record label, Convurgent Music (sanctuaryhop.com/convurgent/), has just released their first album, recorded live in the prayer room, and is presently compiling the work of their local songwriters for the next release.

Three different expressions of New Monasticism.  Three different faces of the movement.  Lovely and fascinating in it’s diversity and unified by the centrality of Jesus and his love for Winnipeg.  Beautiful.

Raw Urban Monasticism…

As soon as the weather began to warm up, I could feel it…

Walking by the alley behind the Living Rock, my spirit would clutch and draw..

The Truck was calling.

In some ways, I’m not sure what the appeal was.  Hours spent sweating and feeling grimy in the back of a UHaul Truck, praying for the city, accompanied by the wail of sirens screaming down the street.  More hours spent as the recipient of meandering monologues of drunken and deranged passers by, waiting for them to take a breath so I could offer to pray for them.

It was hot.  A little bit risky.  Uncomfortable on many levels.

But never before had I experienced such a profound sense of being in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing, the light of His countenance shining on me, basking in the Pleasure of Heaven.  Loving God and loving neighbour.  Raw and unvarnished.  No glossy Christianity here…

“I never want to pray inside again!” I declared, near the end of our two week stint in the Truck.

It broke my heart to shut it down and drive it away.  The following morning, some Rock youth went to their leaders and said “Where’s our Prayer Truck?”

“Gone,” I thought, “But we’ll be back!”

Almost a year later, the Prayer Truck will again roll into the back alley behind the Rock.  This time it will be manned not only by our GOHOP team, but by friends that we made at the Truck last year, friends who have moved into our lives and enriched them in wonderful ways.  We would love for you to join us..

You can sign up for an hour in the Truck on our online calendar at http://www.24-7prayer.com/signup/7851b2