by Anita Varea
To be honest, my introduction to Foundations and the concept of Hebraic church came about fortuitously and in a somewhat low key manner. Like many members of Tree of Life Messianic fellowship, I had heard Steve (Maltz) speak about the subject on more than one occasion so I had some prior knowledge of the motivation behind the "conferences", as they were called at the time. I also knew, or so I thought, that such seemingly "quirky" gatherings in distinctly Spartan sounding conditions were not for me! I'd done my years of 'roughing it', of sleeping in cold rooms on hard or lumpy mattresses, on someone's floor on several occasions and feeling like a zombie the following day. I admired Steve's spiritual, literary output and Monica for her wonderful kindness but I simply smiled and wished them well - walking swiftly in the other direction.
However, I had not factored in the Lord or Norma Gregory! They conspired somewhat surreptitiously, I maintain to this day, to ensnare me.
It began with Norma smilingly requesting me to accompany her as her carer to the "taster" weekend at Belsey Bridge in Suffolk in September 2016.
Norma was approaching her 79th birthday at the time and had been diagnosed with degenerative eye disease. Her poor eyesight and failing health meant that she needed someone to be on hand to look after her well-being. She generously paid and I agreed to do the driving as well as helping her, initially, to find her way around the conference centre. Once there, Norma was able to orient herself, quickly began to communicate easily and happily with those around her and so I was free to explore my surroundings.
The highlight of the first evening, apart from Steve's joke laden introduction and a very nice supper, was the worship that followed. I wasn't prepared for what followed but it was refreshing and transforming.
Jo Jones has a wonderful anointing as a worship leader along with the capacity to think creatively and to break away from the current mantra that worship must be 'led from the front'. The seating arrangement was two blocks of seats with centre aisle, so Jo asked us all to turn our chairs around so that we were facing each other. Having achieved this with a lot scraping of chair legs and boisterous conversation, we resumed our seats and immediately there was a greater sense of closeness. Then Jo smiled sweetly, said that she was taking a rest so we would be responsible for what happened from that moment on.
It's hard to describe in words what followed. Language is often inadequate to convey images, sounds and emotional responses, particularly when the Holy Spirit begins to move. Individuals began to prophecy, speak out Scriptures and share impressions of what the Lord might be saying. The natural flow of the Spirit continued with someone beginning to sing a worship song that was taken up by us all. One could feel the barriers of reserve and self consciousnesses vanishing as voices soared and hearts melted in adoration to the palpable presence of the Lord amongst us.
I was standing behind Norma who was sitting with her eyes closed and her hands raised when the Holy Spirit filled my entire being and I began to sing with a freedom, joy and power that only He can impart. I moved to the rear of the hall so that I could raise my arms in surrender to Spirit unconfined by the chairs and everything else around me. That's what freedom in the spirit does!
Gradually though, as the Lord's Spirit began to ebb away and we all came back down to earth, so to speak, I was really disappointed that it had had to end.
The meeting broke up and everyone made their way to the dining area where tea, coffee, hot chocolate and other hot drinks plus biscuits had been provided for us. I went to Norma so we could go together to have a chat before going to our rooms. When we had sat down with our drinks, she looked at me with such warmth and her voice was filled with genuine wonder as she recounted what had caused her to feel that way. (This is paraphrase of her words because the conversation took place over a year ago and sadly, I didn't write them down).
"I was sitting with my eyes closed, soaking up the worship when from behind I heard the most wonderful melodious voice singing with such power and freedom that I had to look round to see what it was. It was you! It took my breath away and I know the Lord has released something really significant in you tonight."
I was delighted, slightly embarrassed too, by the strength of Norma's pronouncement, but I was also very impressed that a spiritually mature and wise believer like her should make such a statement. It was a mere moment in time but it had an impact that the Lord is still working through with me.
The Foundations south west meeting at Brunel Manor in Torquay took place in December 2016. I believed I should aim to be there and told Steve I intended to go. However, the week before the meeting the clutch on my car went! I was utterly dejected but I had to spend the money I'd set aside for Foundations plus another £50 to have a new clutch fitted. I sent a text to Monica to tell her I wouldn't now be able to go to Torquay and in inimitable Monica style she replied that they would pray that I would be able to get the clutch done AND go to the weekend. Well, the Lord truly answered that prayer because the day I was waiting at the bus stop in Epping to go out and collect my car from the garage, my mobile phone rang and it was Steve. He said he had some good news for me. Apparently for every nineteen bookings made Brunel Manor offered a free place and I was the recipient of one of those slots. That weekend was different to Belsey Bridge, but the Lord was at His creative best again and I was truly blessed again. The venue, the lovely people who came plus the speakers and the activities, the genuine longing for the Lord's presence and the complete sense of liberty were to the fore once again in Torquay.
To date I have been to six Foundations events. These include the main one in April this year at Grange over Sands, Cumbria where I again acted as Norma's carer. Each time, there are new participants and fresh revelations of the utter goodness, kindness, compassion and love of the Lord for His people.
I know Steve and Monica don't like to take a lot of personal credit for the Hebraic model that makes Foundations so life transforming and, at times, exhilarating. Rightly, the Lord should and does receive the lion's share of the praise and thanksgiving. However, they gave been faithful and obedient to the Lord in pursuing the Foundations pattern of teaching, worship and personal spiritual growth combined with the release and use of gifts in the body of Messiah. No mean achievement! Without their determination and conviction in the face of, indifference at best and dismissal at worst, Foundations might not have materialised and we would all be the poorer for that.
I believe Foundations is unique. There are other groups trying similar models but what makes this one special is the humility and genuine hunger to know and experience the presence of the Lord within a totally safe environment without the slickness or 'professional' polish regarded as so necessary in many church settings today. This enables the saints of God to explore and discover within themselves real treasures that are expressed most effectively when there is no pressure to be 'perfect' but sincere, honest and thankful of heart.
Where the Spirit of the Lord there is to true liberty to be oneself as the Lord intended it. Foundations has something to offer anyone and everyone. The Lord is worthy to be praised for raising up this wonderful outlet to His people.