June / July 2015 - Vol. 80
.Amazing Grace at Work
An interview with Jean Barbara, President of the Sword of the Spirit
by Berry Pelaez-Marfori
Sword of the Spirit (SOS) president Jean Barbara makes leading a community of 75 communities in 24 countries seem easy. By his reckoning, he spends about half of his ďawake timeĒ every month doing work for the Sword of the Spirit.Q: How do you explain the significance of the Sword of the Spirit to those you meet?
The Sword of the Spirit is a response to an action that the Lord started more than 45 years ago to renew the Christian people. We have responded to that call to be radical disciples who strive to live community life day-in and day-out in the way the first disciples did. The Sword of the Spirit is an international community of communities, though each community has its own local expression. Moreover, all communities are ecumenical.
What is the importance of being an ecumenical
community of communities?
What amazes you most about how God has put this
community of communities together?
A while ago I was invited to speak at a Kairos conference, our youth program that cuts across communities in the Sword of the Spirit. There I was in Ohio (USA) in the company of 400 young men and women, who were very much on fire for the Lord and for the mission. Most of these kids grew up in community and eventually experienced for themselves the goodness of the Lord. This past February (2015) I spoke and prayed with some 140 people at the Kairos "Power for Mission" European Conference held in Belgium. [You can read some testimonies from the Conference is this issue of Living Bulwark.] Here I witnessed a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit and release of spiritual gifts and a new fire for mission.
What kind of challenges are our communities facing
But there is another kind of challenge: Those that are internal. I recall that at the early stages of community life in Lebanon when we were in the midst of war and our very survival was at stakeÖ when everything around us seemed to fall apartÖ the Lord spoke to us and said: You are responsible for internal challenges. I will deal with those that are external. These internal challenges involve our relationships with one another, and dealing with ďthe flesh,Ē dealing with the influences of the world on us. These are internal challenges which each Christian and each community needs to face, confront and conquer by the grace of God. Handling the external challenge is up to God Ė and not us Ė to change those circumstances.
What are your priorities at the moment?
My second priority is youth. Again it is a priority in response to Godís action among us to raise up a new generation of young men and women who want to follow the call. And itís our responsibility to equip them, to train them, to provide them with Christian opportunities, and to allow them more international exposure and integration. It is my conviction that our kids gain a great advantage when they live the Sword of the Spirit reality in a different community from their own. This is why Gap year ( serving for a year after graduating from university and before starting a career) is such an important tool.
A third priority would be to promote our ecumenical identity, call, and mission.
Itís part of our call, we didnít just make it up.
But for an ordinary individual, why ecumenism?
During your visit to Sword of the Spirit
communities in India, Iíve heard you say many
times that much of our lives are a result of Godís
Has this been consistently happening to you?
Victor (left), Marie-Therese, Jean, Jean-Marc (front) Nicole and George, Philip (front), Peter
Does your family share your convictions?
I want to make sure to give this message to parents. Believe in grace, including itís perfect timing. You who labor in the Lord will never labor in vain.
[with some added recent updates] was originally
conducted by Berry Pelaez-Marfor, the
Editor-in-chief for True North Magazine, a
publication of Ang
Ligaya ng Panginoon and its partners Ė
Christís Youth in Action, Ang Lingkod no Panginoon,
and the Institute for Pastoral Development. The
article first appeared in True North, Volume
6, Number 1. Used with permission.]
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