50 Years of Holy Spirit Led Ministry
By Dr Gerald Derstine, Christian Retreat's Founder and Chairman of the Board
Dramatic changes have occurred since my humble beginnings as pastor of a church, when totally filled, could accommodate 85 people. What is it like to look back over 50 years of Spirit-Filled and Holy Spirit-led ministry?
A paradigm shift in theology was perhaps my first major change. In my early years the greater concern was an attempt to please God and the church, qualifying our entrance to God’s Kingdom or Heaven. The emphasis was on doing the right things and excluding the wrong things, a “works” ethic, attempting to impress God.
Today, we are consciously aware of our relationship with God, sons of God doing our Father’s Will. The fulfillment of the Lord’s Prayer has come into focus -- God’s Kingdom has come and His Will is being done, in earth as we believed it would be in heaven. Jesus is presently acknowledged as King and Lord in our lives; we see ourselves in the church as His subjects on the earth doing the Father’s works. We are empowered by His Spirit to do the works that Jesus said we could do. John 14:12-14.
Our vision has dramatically broadened and the WORLD is the Field. If an individual can be converted and changed, so also a community and a whole nation can be changed. Yes, the Holy Spirit brings into focus the Nations of the World. May the kingdoms of this world become the Kingdom of our God! There is nothing impossible with God.
This ministry in the past fifty years has impacted more than 50 nations of the world. Today, a vast ministry in Haiti, our first overseas mission, has more than 300 churches and thousands of believers, with overseer Bishop Joel Jeune. In the Philippine Islands, more than 300 churches have been established, with Claudio Cortez and wife, Hosanna and family. In the nation of Honduras, Daniel Isbel presides over a network of 200 churches. Great works exist on the islands of Trinidad, Jamaica and Cuba. More recently, major outreaches have been established in Israel, Romania, Ghana and various other countries around the world.
All the above churches and works were born out of the Gospel Crusade, Inc. founded in 1953. Gospel Crusade Ministerial Fellowship came into being some years later, a result of missions activities of the writer. Today we have a Gospel Crusade of Canada, Gospel Crusade of Haiti, Gospel Crusade of Philippines, Gospel Crusade of Honduras, and other countries are working on details to affiliate their churches and works from their localities.
Four major training centers have been birthed. Strawberry Lake Christian Retreat, August 1965 (near Detroit Lakes, MN), Florida Christian Retreat, July 1968 (Bradenton, FL), North Country Christian Retreat, July 1982 (near Canton, NY) and Christian Retreat Illinois, Road Angel Truck ministry, 1994, founded by the late Jim Keyes (Brownstown, IL).
We are an army, expanding the vision as we focus on the purpose for which God created us. Matthew 28: 19-20. We are truly purpose-driven people.