It is with great joy that we share we arrived home safely. Our transition has been good so far, it helped a lot to have our family, friends and A2J community welcome us home. They not only threw us a welcome home party but also cleaned and organized our house and filled our cupboards and fridge with food. What a gift! It was an amazing 395 days in Europe. Our time was very fruitful and through the grace of God we accomplished our goals serving as the President of Antioch Network. We also experienced so much wonder and beauty as a family. We trust that in the days, months and years ahead we will continue to experience the fruit of this time both as a family and in our work.
Thank you for supporting us prayerfully, personally and financially in this time. We could not have done the work without you.
We will send a comprehensive report later and plan to host a time to share in person this Fall. Until then, below are a few highlights from our last two months
Visiting our team
Most of the past two months was focused on connecting in a deep way with our team member in Europe. God has blessed us with a strong and beautiful team.
Celebrating Pentecost in Rome
It was a surreal experience to be on the stage with Christian leaders from around the world. We were diverse yet one in Christ. There were Roman Catholics, Pentecostals, Evangelicals, Anglicans, non-denominational and even Messianic Jews. There were five Cardinals and of course at the center was Pope Francis, the Bishop of Rome. It was very meaningful to participate in this monumental event, standing side by side with my friends and fellow co-laborers from Wittenberg 2017 and John 17.
Pope Francis began his Pentecost celebrations at an ecumenical vigil June 3 with some 50,000 Catholic charismatics and Pentecostals from more than 125 countries gathered for praise and worship at the site of the ancient Roman Circus Maximus
“We have chosen to meet here in the Circus Maximus,” said Pope Francis, “where so many Christians were martyred, just for laughs. Today there are more martyrs than in those times. Today’s martyrs are not asked ‘Are you Catholic? Orthodox? Coptic? Pentecostal?’ before being killed. They are killed because they are Christian. We are united by this ecumenism of the blood.”
If those who want to kill Christians believe they are one, he said, it is urgent that Christians be
“united by the work of the Holy Spirit in prayer and in action on behalf of those who are weaker. Striving to Walk together. Work together. and Love each other,”
Pope Francis shared with us that, being baptized in the Spirit and knowing how to praise God, “are not enough” if we as, Christians don’t also help those in need.
Here is the Big Question:
In this year marking the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s protest, can we seek to be united simply as followers of Jesus Christ?
Meeting Pope Francis as a family
It was an amazing honor to be able to be with Pope Francis as a family, we were the only family in this meeting. We thank God for our friend Julia Torres, who made it possible. Our kids were so moved by this experience. Pope Francis was so excited to greet our children.
John 17 Meetings
This was our second John 17 Gathering in Rome to visit with Pope Francis at the Vatican. This gathering included roughly fifty participants, predominantly from evangelical and Pentecostal churches in the United States, and was initiated by the gracious invitation of Pope Francis and the Vatican, geared towards building bridges between Catholics and Protestants for the glory of Jesus, relational unity of his people, and good of the world.
If you would like to read the transcripts from our meetings with Pope Francis that a friend put together you can do so by clicking here
Two minute video summary of our time in Rome
The love and peace of Christ to you,
Ryan for the Thurman family
by Ryan Thurman
We are living in Gozo, a little sister island of the country of Malta in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, not too far from Tunisia. Wherever God places us in the world our work with Antioch Network (AN) is consistent. First, we help start and support new ministries. Second, we encourage and build up the body of Christ. And third, we care for the poor and vulnerable.
To help paint a fuller picture of what we are currently up to we will share the details of two recent days! On Sunday, we hosted and led the worship service. We had forty-plus people in our home from ten different countries. Keilah did a reading from Scripture and later gave the Bible lesson to the children. Noleen assisted in the communion and I gave the sermon. After the service, we ate and fellowshipped together. It was powerful to serve together as a family. It brought back memories of when we started A2J in our home in Phoenix and then a few years later helped start St. George’s Anglican Church, also in our home.
The next day, while Noleen was homeschooling the children, I left early in the morning to catch the ferry from Gozo to Malta to go shopping to buy food and supplies for the Eritrean family, the three children we took into our home last month while their mother was recovering from tuberculosis in the hospital. While there I noticed the mother was not doing well so after praying over her made arrangements with her social workers to go back to the hospital. I ended this day by joining Christians from all over Malta and Gozo both Catholic and Protestant to pray for reconciliation and healing in the broken body of Christ. There is a wonderful network of Christians developing here that has the same heart and mission as John 17.
The next day God gave us the joy and challenge of bringing these three children to live with us once again. Our children have been wonderful in opening up their spaces and hearts to these children again. Recently, we watched the Gospel of John movie together, they had never heard the gospel or understood the love of and sacrifice of Jesus. The sheer wonder and amazement they had to the power and beauty of Jesus stirred us afresh. Mikele, asked Noleen where Jesus is now and she shared with him the mystery of Jesus in heaven but also in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, He responded, "This is the most amazing and scary story ever." Such a genuine and innocent response!
Three Things We Have Been Learning Lately
1. Everyone is hungry for love and thirsty for grace. As Hebrews exhorts us, see to it that no one misses the grace of God.
2. The home might just be the most important place on earth. As James K.A. Smith writes, the home is a deeply formative space that teaches us how to love. As a family, we are seeing with new eyes, the important role we have in helping shape one another. We are also learning as a family how to identify and affirm each other’s gifts and how to work together to serve God.
3. Reconciliation is needed now more than ever, as the world appears to be rapidly growing more divisive. The message of reconciliation is more relevant and appealing than ever to a world deeply anguished because of broken relationship with God and with one another.
**You can read more about our past nine months in Europe by clicking this link.
by Ryan Thurman
We are constantly in danger of losing sight of the big picture. Just as you click the minus (-) sign on google maps to zoom out from your neighborhood to see the whole world, we need this same zoom out feature to see beyond our narrow view to the expansiveness of God’s heart and purposes. We need occasions to pause long enough to see where we have 'lost our way' and allow ourselves to be reoriented into the grand story of our God who loves us and created us to care for His creation and called us to partner with him as He works to restore and reconcile all things to Himself.
This letter is my reorientation ‘project’ as I remember and mark God’s grace in this year. May it encourage you to listen to your own life, and as Frederick Buechner writes, “see it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”
Serving with Antioch Network
This year has been extraordinary for our family. As we entered into our eleventh year with Antioch Network and my second year serving as President we were asked by the Antioch Network leadership council to consider spending a year overseas to encourage and bring greater connectivity to the Antioch Network team spread throughout Europe and Turkey. We said yes. We have now been in Europe for half of a year. It has been an exciting time with many occasions for fruitful ministry and personal growth. We have also experienced the vulnerabilities of being separated, both by miles and time zones from our friends, family and spiritual communities. We have been carried by your prayers for us.
The Ministry Expressions of Antioch Network
As you can see from the chart above, Antioch Network is involved in a rich variety of works across the globe. So far we have traversed through eleven different countries in Europe visiting our team. Some parts of our journey led us to pray, serve and fellowship with nobility, bishops and even Pope Francis. At other times you would of seen us tucked away in a small cafe in a major European city worshipping Jesus with Muslim converts who had immigrated from the Middle East. In Malta you would find us taking into our home and caring for the most vulnerable—refugee children, whose mother was seriously ill. You will also find us working with our colleagues here to build Christian community and a network of Christians committed to the ministry of reconciliation and Christian unity.
I recently travelled from where we are living in Gozo an island of 40,000 inhabitants and where their is virtually no crime, in fact we rarely lock our car or home, to Istanbul a city of over 14 million that is suffering from violence and fear. I went to visit our team there. I listened to their stories of hope and conviction amidst the uncertainty of their future. I was sobered by the candid discussions of their ‘emergency exit plan.’ I left one meeting that was in the area of a deadly terrorist bombing, missing it by only a few hours. I found myself at times seized by fear in different settings and was in awe of the grace and the courage that God has given my Antioch Network colleagues who stay and continues to bear witness to the gospel in a place where so few know and follow Jesus.
(I cannot post photos of our team there or of the work they are doing there because of security reasons)
What I have seen this year
Great suffering all around. Humanity is reeling more and more out of control as it moves further and further away from its Creator. Violence, injustice and apathy run rampant. War with its death and displacement of people continues to increase. The body of Jesus here on earth, the church, is enduring intense affliction and persecution.
Yet signs of hope abound as the kindness and mercy of our God continues to lead the way. Jesus continues to draw people to himself giving them the gift to trust in him. I see many Christian communities being the hands and feet of Jesus. I see them expressing compassion and gentleness and I see many standing up for truth and justice even at a personal sacrifice.
Jesus prayed that we would be one in Him and Jesus will get what he prayed for. I see the church coming together like never before. As Christians from different streams increasingly place Jesus at the center and learn to receive the gifts from one another that Jesus has placed within each stream and learn to forgive one another the divided body of Christ will become reconciled and grow in visible unity. This will not only make God more visible but also release healing to the divisions and pain of all humanity. One example of this is the Historic Christian traditions from the Middle East that are coming to the West because of war and persecution. They have much to offer us as they have learned long-suffering and how to persevere in their faith in the midst of suffering and persecution.
We are doing well overall. As mentioned earlier it is a challenge to stay connected to our family and friends and at times we can feel forgotten about by those at home. But God provides what we need as we look to Him. Noleen is doing well, she greatly misses her work as a Doula. She excels at keeping the family together through all the ups and downs of life overseas. She continues to have seizure episodes every week or two, (she had an intense one today). The kids miss home often, but they are also enjoying this unique opportunity. They have met many wonderful people and been enriched by the living history and different cultures we have experienced. Here in Gozo, Noleen is homeschooling the kids and they are finding ways to interact with the culture and people. Ethan is taking a carving class at a local school and making beautiful stone sculptures. Micah is playing soccer and the girls are taking horse riding lessons. You can see photos from our life in Gozo below. Some of our family highlights were having my parents meet us in Rome and help us travel to Gozo and get settled here. Also it was a great gift having Noleen's mother come visit us in Gozo! We also had a beautiful time with our spiritual parents George and Hanna Miley in Poland. Another highlight was watching our children love and care for the Eritrean children while they were with us. Finally, it has been a great encouragement to see our A2J family grow and thrive as we have been away. We are so grateful for the leadership of the Malakowskys, Alianzas, and Jesses!
Thank you for taking the time to read this! We are grateful for your friendship!
With Love and gratitude,
Ryan, Noleen, Ethan, Keilah, Micah, and Elyana
As you know both Noleen and I love photography and find it to be an act of worship and a way of bearing the image of God, as those called to create beauty. These are some photos we have taken along the way.
Our first month has passed by quickly. We have flown to Rome and back and driven more than 2000 kilometers through Germany and tomorrow will mark the eight different location we have stayed in. We have been packed in one-room apartments and other times experiencing great beauty and spaciousness as we stayed in a gardener's house of a small castle and most recently a former monastery.
We have experienced the pain of hurting each other as we we have at times, poorly handled the stress and challenges, of this journey. At the same time, we have also experienced our family grow closer to Jesus and to one another. Sunday was a beautiful highlight for us, as our children on their own initiative shared a devotional time together, it ended with a nature walk paying attention to God's beauty in creation.
We miss our family and friends greatly, and our hearts go out to the wounds and pain of the world around us, especially in our own nation. We pray that God pours out his grace in these days to continue to heal every division and broken relationship. I came across this quote a few days ago:
and took the below photo in a beautiful monastery last night. I hope they encourage and inspire!
"Do we believe that the Holy Spirit will be increasingly poured out over the church? Do we believe that Jesus comes into our midst, that he opens his heart to us so that we may live as he did and have an influence in society as he did? Do we dare to carry out the task as his church in his coming kingdom, to be a corrective within society through the grace of the indwelling Christ?"
John 17 Meetings in Rome, Italy
We started off our time in Rome participating in John 17 meeting, (Ryan is on the leadership team). Our meetings culminated in a wonderful intimate gathering with Pope Francis, you can read about it in my last post
Connecting with George and Hanna Miley: Gemund,Germany
This friendship spans 20 years. And for the past 13 years we have walked very closely together. They are spiritual parents to us and it was such a gift to have our whole family in the place of Hanna's story and where the Eifelfellowship was birthed
Wittenberg 2017 Gathering in Wittenberg, Germany
This was our largest and most diverse gathering yet, we had many new friends, strengthening both the Catholic and German Lutheran participation. Among the Catholics were sisters from the United States, the Pope's former secretary Julia Torres and an elder statesman of the French Catholic renewal. We also had a strong Messianic Jewish representation and people working in Israel. Most significantly we had some Wittenberg Christians in our midst and were greeted by a Protestant sisterhood who have been praying for Wittenberg. God has given us key people in Wittenberg!!!
"500 years of division are enough
- unity is possible!”
June 18th began the 500 day countdown to the 500th Anniversary and we are inviting you to join with us through prayer, fasting and study and meeting with others from different Christian traditions.
Learn more by visiting
Going deeper with Antioch Network and Wittenberg 2017 team in Trieb, Germany
For almost two weeks we have had the great gift of receiving the gracious hospitality of the Benecke family. We have grown closer together as we have lived together with them and we have sought the Lord together in how we can work more closely together for God's purposes in Europe. Ludwig and Cecily have been key leaders in the Wittenberg 2017 work and God's hand is upon them. George and Hanna Miley also were with us for five days.
"We want this property that God
has blessed us with
to be used for God's Kingdom"
Together for Europe gathering: Munich, Germany
"Even when temptation suggests that we need not be together, Christians, especially, are called to demonstrate the fundamental principle of the Church, which is communion (koinonia). It is only when we share the gifts so generously and freely bestowed on us by God, that we can fully experience them ourselves”.
~Bartholomew I, (the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople)
On a rainy day in Munich, Germany I was able to participate in the culmination gathering where 1700 leaders and members from more than 300 Communities and Movements of Together for Europe took part in the Congress held at Circus-Krone-Bau. There were a good group of us there who had just been together in Wittenberg only days ago. This gathering was a furtherance of the work of the Holy Spirit to bring healing and reconciliation among God's people.
Tomorrow we head to Berlin for a week to spend time connecting with our colleagues David and Greetja Sanders and Julia Stone. July 19th we drive from Berlin to Lodz, Poland. The World Youth Days will take place in Krakow, Poland, July 26-31. They will be preceded by an international youth festival called “Paradise in the City”. This will be held in Lodz, Poland, organized by Chemin Neuf, an international fellowship of reconciliation and discipleship. Several thousand young adults are expected. George and Hanna have been asked to speak on several occasions about the power of forgiveness and reconciliation through Jesus. Hanna will share her story in the city center, the area where her parents were held in the ghetto, and again at Radegast Railway Station, in National Socialist times the arrival and departure place for Jews into the ghetto and out en route to their deaths. We will be there to support them! (Below is a short video about this event)
It was back in 2010 that I travelled with Hanna Miley and others to honor her parents as we retraced the same route of her parents from Germany to Poland where they were gassed in Chelmno, Poland May 3, 1942. One great disappointment was finding the location where Hanna's parents entered the van where they were gasses locked because of a Polish National holiday and not being able to pray there. This time, we will return to pray there accompanied by film team.
To learn more about Hanna's story you can visit their website and scroll to the bottom for her book.
The beauty and fun along the way
by Ryan Thurman
Our John 17 meeting with Pope Francis was truly an exceptional experience. After 30 plus hours of traveling we arrived in Rome Wednesday evening. We were exhausted but excited. We walked around for an hour or so to get some exercise and then got some rest. The next morning Ryan left early and caught a taxi to the Villa Aurelia where the rest of the pilgrims (there were about a dozen of us from the John 17 team and then a handful of Christian leaders and pastors from Phoenix and then a dozen or so from around the U.S.) were staying and we had a rich time of prayer and worship led by David Gungor. Joe Tosini and Mike Herron then shared a short history of the John 17 movement. The rest of the day was set aside for the different leaders to be able to connect and fellowship and also we had a wonderful tour of the Sistine Chapel together.
Friday there was a lunch together and then a meeting with Giovanni Traettino, who shared the history of his close friendship with Pope Francis. We then went together to Pope Francis residence in the Vatican where we spent over two hours together with Pope Franics. My friend Bishop Eduardo, who is part of the John 17 team and has spent time with Pope Francis helped us understand the uniqueness of Pope Francis and our specific visit with him. Because he wanted this to be a meeting of friends, he told his personal body guards not to be present, as well as his personal secretary, nor his Master of Ceremonies. Also historically Popes would receive questions from a group in advance and then have a very thorough written response that would be read to the group.
Pope Francis fielded our difficult questions off the cuff and responded from his heart. We asked Pope Francis about key issues such as the uniqueness of Christ, the priesthood of all believers, the challenges of pluralism and how we can begin to build bridges and pray and together in our own cities with Christians from traditions outside our of our own. A new friend, Joshua Butler, who was part of our group, wrote a very thorough description of our meeting. You can read it here
Pope Francis challenged us to live out our Christian Faith in our daily lives: by living out the Beatitudes and following Jesus and the First and the Greatest Commandment is to love our God with ALL of our heart, with ALL of our Soul, With ALL of our Mind and with ALL of our strength. And to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. On several occasions, he made the point that what he was sharing was his thoughts and asked us what we think
As our time came to a close, we held hands to pray for one another. Then we gathered to pray for him and he for us. Pope Francis greeted each one of us personally and gave us his book, “On Love in the Family.” and then allowed us to take a photo with him. Again Bishop Eduardo told us that this is exceptional, even when Catholic Bishops get the chance to meet with Pope Francis they often only get a group photo with him.
My respect and fondness for Pope Francis grew exponentially. He exudes humility, love and courage. His commitment to follow Jesus with integrity leaving our comfort zones and going out to the lost, the jaded, the poor, and the forgotten with the love of Christ. He continues to reach out to Christians outside of the Catholic church with love, respect and honor even though many of those same Christians show great contempt and disrespect to him and Catholicism in general.
I am deeply grateful to work with the John 17 team and the growing friendship that we share together went deeper through this experience. It was a great to be with Giovanni and his Son Luigi and for the first time meet Giovanni’s wife Franca, she is a beautiful person and I now see why Pope Francis thinks so highly of her. There were many quality people with us and I was not able to connect with all of them in depth but did really appreciate my interactions with Ricardo Stewart and Tyler Johnson from Redemption church in Phoenix.
Noleen and I being together was an amazing gift and to have the kids with us to experience the Vatican and Sistine Chapel and to interact with the group was very meaningful for them. A lot had to happen to allow us to have this rich experience and God in his kindness provided it all, the finances, the health, and not least Jodi Dowell, a colleague to come be with our kids for half of the day on Friday so Noleen and I could both be with Pope Francis and the amazing dinner afterwards with friends.
Noleen I have walked closely with George and Hanna as they have served in Germany. It was a treasure to have our children here with us and see first hand where Hanna lived as a child and to see the remembrance stones for her parents and the cemetery where they erected gravestones for her parents. Learn more about the ministry of George and Hanna Miley on their site eifelfellowship.com
We arrived late last night after an epic 11 hour drive that should of only been 6 hours. We began meetings today. More about this later. Until then you can learn about Wittenberg 2017 by clicking the link www.wittenberg2017.us
Below is a pdf of our schedule so you can learn more about what we will be doing this week in Wittenberg
Bonus Photos Below
by Ryan Thurman
1. The Antioch Network Board is sending us: As President I will be serving to help develop the International team
2. Europe is part of our history: Noleen was born there and served in France, Switzerland and Ireland before we were married. I experienced a powerful call to mission work while serving in Croatia in 1995. I lived and served in Bosnia for a year. Since being married Noleen and I have spent the past 13 years in and out of Europe supporting George and Hanna's ministry of Reconciliation and helping develop Antioch Network in Europe.
3. It is the right time: For the past five years we have been praying about timing. This year we have experienced God's release and blessing to go. Practically our kids are at a great age to adapt to the challenges as well as be able to take in and appreciate the life-lessons and rich experiences that will abound. We also sense this assignment with its different roles and locations will be a gift to our family after ten intense years of living as inner-city missionaries.
What We Will be Doing
1. Developing the Antioch Network team in Europe: This will take us to Germany, Austria, Italy, Malta, and Turkey
2. Helping connect the emerging Antioch Network hubs: In Germany, Rome, Istanbul, and a potential new one in Malta
3. Attending Wittenberg Reconciliation meetings in June 2016 and provide on-the-ground planning for the sixth and largest meeting that will take place November 2017 commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation
4. Offering ourselves and the principals we have learned from establishing Apprenticeship to Jesus in Phoenix to the ministries being birthed in Rome and Malta.
5. Working with refugees: We are hoping to also connect and partner with different refugee ministries that we have connections with in Croatia, Malta, & Turkey
Want to Learn More? Join us for an upcoming dessert:
+Thursday March 31st 6:30-8:30pm at our house (1215 W. Monroe St.)
+Tuesday April 12th 6:30-8:00pm at Don & Genie Street's house (7113 N. 23rd St.)
Please contact me at email@example.com if you will be coming to one of these desserts!