Divine Retreat Centre, Muringoor, Chalakudy 680316, Kerala, Fax:091(IndiaCode)0488(KeralaCode)843390, Phone: 091(IndiaCode) 0488(Kerala Code)842513 & 843413 e-mail: divine@md2.vsnl.net.in

During my holiday to Kerala in January 1999, I mentioned that I visited Quilon, Tangasseri, Alleppey, Cochin and Chavara. There was also another place I mentioned that I visited between my Cochin trip and return to Chavara, that was Muringoor (some refer to this place as Potta, which is a little wrong, as Potta is about 6 Kilometres away). I now take you to the Divine Retreat Centre, and share with you my experiences.

Having been skeptical as to what to expect at a place that thousands of people have come (to Muringoor) week after week, and returned back to their homes with some change. I heard about this place a few years ago, and did include a page on my ‘Bangalore Walla’ Home page dedicated to ‘Potta’. I always told people that you did not need to go to Potta if you believe that God will work miracles anywhere, and if you believe in your heart these miracles will come true. I did have my own examples during these 20 years that I did share a better understanding of my Lord, Jesus, where I did receive healing for a chronic back problem that gave me trouble for over 15 years. I was also healed of an addiction to smoking. Now, all these events took place at Bangalore and the Word of Prophecy was given during the Eucharist celebration at St,. Joseph’s Boys’ High School, at the Charismatic Meeting. I told everyone that they need not go to the Divine Retreat Centre to experience Christ, and I was quite convinced about this.

I went for a holiday to Kerala to get away from the negatives of Bangalore as I had been without a job since July 1998, and the one month that I did get one in November 1998, I thought everything was great and back to normal, but this was not to be and I was taken aback when the person I was to work with became silent on the work basis and the money did not flow in. Knowing that God has His ways of doing things, I knew that since one door would be closed, another opened, but as the months went by, I soon became restless and so this holiday was literally forced on me by my wife who hails from Kerala. So I decided to visit her sister and spend some time at the beautiful and quiet place of Chavara, and then to visit her brother’s place at Cochin, and return back to Bangalore.

Off to Kerala I did go, and I reached Quilon very early, and I did work my way to Chavara by God’s Grace and asking people how to get there, not knowing the local language of Malayalam. I have given a brief of my trip on my Internet Home Page of Kerala at http://www.oocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/9669/kerala.htm . I was determine to do lots of photography on Kerala at the places like Quilon, Tangasseri, Cochin, which all had historical buildings, and my mind was far away from the Divine Retreat Centre. However, I did carry my Bible with me to Kerala, knowing that a coward like me may find the time to acquire God’s Grace. When I visited Cochin, and spent a hectic two days with good food and flowing liquor, I realised that I had a choice that I could go to ‘Potta’ as everyone referred to the Divine Retreat Centre or return to Quilon to carry on with my photo session. On Friday night (22nd January 1999), I decided that the next day I would go and see what this place is like, as it seemed close and was only an ‘hour and half away’, and people said just causally ‘get a bus and ask them to drop you off at Divine’ and I also nodded, not really convinced that I would be able to do so. I even gave up the temptation of having to finish a tin of ‘Foster’s Beer’ that I left in the fridge. I hate travelling, and not knowing the language and asking people to guide me made me more panic stricken. My wife’s sister-in-law was kind enough to put me on a bus and point me in that direction and off I went to this place people said that miracles took place every week. I decided to spend one week of my holiday ‘locked up’. Once you enter and register, the program is from Sunday till Saturday and you will not be allowed to leave in-between, unless in an emergency. You will not be allowed to smoke or consume any alcohol.

I arrived at the gates having been guided and helped by so many people in the bus as to where I was to alight, I proceeded cautiously across the Highway NH47 to the ‘English’ section. I was greeted by a sprawling campus with a huge ‘hanger-like’ shed and people walking around very casually. This being Saturday evening, most of the retreatants of the previous week had left , and new recruits like me all quivering and softly treading. I ventured into the foyer and was met by a smiling sturdy brother who told me to go up to the 4th floor and make myself comfortable and find a bunker, and ‘Registrations’ would take place next day. I would have to only get a food coupon for the night meal and next day breakfast. I went up the stairs to the 4th floor, and looked for a bunker which had the fan close by and parked my bag. I looked around to see if I could pick out any familiar faces, but was quite disappointed, as most of the bunkers were empty. Let me explain what this system is like, it is a long dormitory that has about 4 rows of 25 two-tier steel cots that have mattress covered with Rexene, and a small Rexene pillow. You would have to bring your pillowcase, sheet to sleep on and perhaps one to cover. The first impression one gets is straight out of the movies, that this could be like a ‘concentration camp’, because of the rows, but once you settle down it is very comfortable, and you will not miss the comforts of a ‘foam’ bed, ‘Dunlop’ pillows and good food of home. One has to remember that the ladies have separate dormitories, even if you come with your spouse, you will be separated, there are family rooms, but the Centre does not encourage their use, because of the distraction of your own family members, and usually reserve them for handicapped or aged.

Out in the darkness, I did see three middle aged people who looked very kind and one was familiar and I had seen him at Bangalore, and sure enough I did know his brother. They invited me to come to their corner and I took a top berth and made my bedding up. (Bedding: is to spread a sheet over the mattress and a pillowcase over the pillow). One has to keep one’s suitcase or hand bag securely locked up preferably, and all the valuables you could leave in the Office so that you can have a peaceful time without the fear of anything major missing ( you may find your toothpaste, or hair cream taking a walk!). I gave in my camera kit, and I decided that I would ‘listen’ to God and not get distracted by taking photos, etc. Mind you, once you hand over your belongings you can only get them back on Friday night. These three gentlemen (George, Patrick and Desmond, Desmond’s wife Hazel and their relations Jean and Basil were staying in one of the ‘family rooms’) had arrived by train the previous evening so were quite settled in, and I was very grateful for their company. Saturday night had dinner, and the first taste of the meals that I would have to get used to for the next 7 days. I did find the meal very pleasant, and I have forgotten what it really was. It is quite amazing that the way the food is prepared and served for so many people, day in and day out, and by the same hands out of love. Here itself the miracle starts, feeding so many people. We were over a 1000 head, but one must remember that across the road in the Malayam, Tamil and Telegu sections they are over 3000 heads daily, and the two lines one for ladies and other gents went by without any stress of thinking the food will finish. It did remind me of the ‘feeding of the multitude’ we read of in the Gospels, for the food is plenty, but there is no waste. The food is very tasty, ( we get some fish and even meat during the week at a meal) the quantity comfortable and you will never think of a second helping because you will be just amazed at the long queues, then you will know that there were so many people who came to the Retreat Centre to listen to the Word of God. Those who serve you are not paid, but are doing service for the Lord, as part of their healing or just their love for another. Many come to the Retreat Centre and stay back to help out or do the next week session. In January, when I registered, the charge for Registration and Food for the whole week was only Rs. 170/00 (One hundred and seventy rupees), then you can imagine how the Lord really works, and supplies the food at that cost. The stage is quite large and has a beautiful picture of Christ in the background.

Day One, (Sunday) , is the usually starting push-pull, and you will be surprised at the number of people who have returned twice or thrice to attend the Retreats. After registration, there is an introduction talk and people settle to their favourite corners for the whole week. People just leave their books and Bibles on a chair in the shed where the session will be conducted, and nobody will remove it. The sound system is quite loud and especially if you are not used to the volume, it can be quite a shattering experience when the music praise and worship starts, but if you are seated in the centre aisle, then it will be just right, also after one or two sessions of praise, you will be soaked with the sound and it will not bother you, because you will still hang on to your position of your chair and join in the loudness of praise. You will then get to know the way how people Praise God, with lifted hands and singing of Alleluia, clapping and shouting at their top of their voices. On Sunday during breakfast I was surprised to see my aunt Rosie and cousin Monica from Bombay. They had come with a batch of 95 from their parish along with their parish priest. It was indeed sad that the Bombay group only mixed with themselves and very few of them said a word to anyone outside. There was one lady called Audrey who was quite sweet and did make an effort, perhaps maybe because she knew I was Monica’s relation. There are separate smaller ‘hangers’ for the Konkani (Goan and Mangalorean languages) , Hindi and Kannada groups, and all are run simultaneously. The speakers move from one session for one group to another session in the next group.

Day Two and Three (Monday - Tuesday) are preparatory days for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession to Priests for Catholics), for other Christians and non-Christians, there are Counsellors to meet and talk to for guidance. There are talks and sharing by various speakers, who have received a tremendous infilling with God, and some of them non-Christians. On all days there is the Eucharist Celebration ( Holy Mass ) in the evenings, earlier the Blessed Sacrament (a host, which Christians believe is the Body of Christ, is mounted in a special decorated holder called the monstrance for people to worship) is exposed and Benediction given. All days the Chapel on the 2nd floor has the Blessed Sacrament exposed during certain times of the day. There are also Intercessory groups praying through the day and night for the Retreat. They have separate Chapels on the 6th floor.

Day Four (Wednesday) is a day of Repentance and one has to contemplate and confess one’s sins. Catholics go to the priests, and non-Catholics go to Councillors. The priests will also speak to the non-Catholics and counsel them. This is the day when there is tremendous Power of the Love of God flowing and you will witness it in the faces of those around you. There are many who have kept burdens in their hearts for years, and that has been blocking their healing process. People will lift their hands and Praise God in a bolder voice. Do not be surprised by external signs of people having been released from possession or struggling with their conscience, you just have to keep focused on Jesus and these disturbances will not trouble you. This is, I feel the most powerful day, because the two days previously, we have been led to a preparation to yield our sins to God, by the preachers, and are ready to let go.

Day Five (Thursday) is a day of Fast. You will only get black coffee in the morning and coffee for breakfast I think, no lunch, and a light dinner. Those that cannot fast, like the sick and aged or children are exempt and have to collect special coupons for their meals. You will be surprised that hunger will not trouble you at all, and if you drink water at regular intervals (it is good to carry a water bottle with you all the time). This is the day that there are many signs and wonders taking place and we can even feel it in our own lives. First the very fact that we are without two meals is a wonder, and people will not complain. There are sessions of Inner Healing that take place during the day, preparation by the speakers for the healing and acceptance of God’s Grace in the evening. You will feel a definite change in the atmosphere, and the air is more charged. You will begin to find this change from Wednesday. For me, I was disturbed from Sunday to Tuesday by a foul smell coming from one of the pipes of the sewage exhaust close by, but from Wednesday, this smell did not come to me at all, and instead I will filled with a different smell, a sort of fragrance, somewhat a smell of roses. I thought this was an after shave someone was using, but it was not constant and only came once. On Thursday, this smell did come many times, and especially in the evening session when they were praying for healing of different illnesses. People were asked to give up their drinking and smoking habits, some with their obsession of perversions, broken relations and improper relationship to be given up, others enmity, and so many areas that as they were given up, you could really feel the evil being turned away, and demons shrieking when the praise of Alleluia was listed to God and the more the evil was cast out, the louder the Alleluia was shouted. This was quite an experience, and one never became hoarse shouting to God at the top of your voice, because it came from within and not from the mind.

There were many healings during the session, I did see a man who was paralysed on one side so that he couldn’t walk straight, suddenly look radiant and walk straight and run about, another was my own cousin Monica from Bombay who was crippled from birth with polio, get up and make an attempt to walk without her crutches. The Lord is definitely working in her life although the healing was not complete, there was a remarkable improvement. Many who could not move their hands due to arthritis or vertebra problems were able to lift their hands and legs up and wave about and jump. You get used to these happenings, and the more you concentrate on the Lord Jesus who is exposed in the Blessed Sacrament on the Altar, you will be able to see the areas in your own life that have been healed. Areas of forgiveness, areas of lust, areas of greed, areas of drink. ( I have asked the Lord to take away my liking for drinking, and from January 23rd, 1999 till date I have not had the urge to drink, nor have I tried to do so. Praise the Lord Jesus). The Lord has anointed many of the preachers with the gifts of knowledge and wisdom, and they reveal many of the messages they receive to the people. They also come to know through this Word that many of the people still are hiding their bottles and cigarettes on the campus, and urge the owners to dispose of them. Nobody laughs or ridicule anyone in this place, and it is all taken very seriously with prayer, people get up and leave to dispose of the hidden bottles, and some even throw their cigarette packets and what ever charms into wastebaskets in front on the stage to be freed from that particular bondage. .

Day Six, (Friday) is the day for preparation for the infilling with the Holy Spirit, and we are still being tuned on Inner Healing ( this is a way of reaching into our past and releasing all the grudges, and happenings that have taken place through our lives till this day, this also the time people will weep and cry aloud because they have been touched right deep down inside and their hurts are being healed by the Lord) during the last two days, as it is a process. This day too there are many experiences and visions received by many. Some experience the vision of Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of God, others Christ as a Shepherd or different forms, and a variety of experiences. Many received the gift of smell of scented roses which they interpret as the visit of Our Lady to the surrounding as she is the prime intercessor to God. This too I received the smell once in a way, but not continuously. I also experienced the touch of God on my palms as I asked God to let me know if I was worthy of praising Him. It was a very good experience, like as if someone put warm water in a cellophane bag and rotated the bag making the water swirl round and round, this effect I experienced many times on my hands, initially on both hands but later only on my left hand. May be God got fed up with me asking for this touch again and again, and finally it went. In fact during the last time I got the feeling, I actually opened my eyes to look at my hands to see if they were moving or I dreaming, I was definitely not because the feeling was physical, although it did not show physically. I also had the smell of the Jasmine flower for a very brief period, and also experienced a great calmness and lack of any tension.

I used to be very nervous about travelling and coming to this Centre itself I put off because of this reason, and even when I arrived, I was worried about how to return, and so I did put this to the Lord during the visit to the Chapel on the 2nd floor and I told the Lord on Sunday that if He really wanted me to listen to Him and enjoy myself for that was the reason I came in the first place, He would have to get rid of this distracting thought of how I should get back. When I approached the ‘Travel Desk’ ( they have a service to help book tickets for return journeys, and various options, now that Divine Retreat Center has it’s own Railway Station called ‘Divine Nagar’) they directed me to a person who was helping in the ‘food ministry’ by the name of Paul La’Brooy . When I met him, as he was from Quilon and I was returning there, he just told me ‘ Don’t worry, I will put you on the bus on Sunday morning’, and the whole anxiety just disappeared. Paul was also helpful in guiding me to various houses in Tangasseri, as I wanted to further go there. Thus that fear of travel disappeared and I was set free to enjoy Praising and Worshipping the Lord. I also experienced a very deep way of prayer and was sure that the Lord had heard my prayers. During the previous day, during the ‘healing session’ , the Lord gave a word of knowledge through Fr. Augustine Vallooran, VC, the Director, who called out names of people that the Lord was touching, and also the Lord was providing for them. He later got the knowledge that many seven who were unemployed would get jobs, and I was sure I was one of them. I had set aside this week for the Lord, and I knew He called me by name to listen to Him, and I allowed myself to be used for His service, in doing so, there was something that the Lord would give me that I needed even before I asked. I am in the process of getting a job while I write this, and I am sure that He will answer my prayer for my children whose exams are approaching shortly, with proper guidance from the Holy Spirit. (The Lord has given me a job on the 23rd of February 1999, and I with His Grace will get back to a routine of His work.). PRAISE THE LORD!

I am totally convinced that this experience was necessary for me to listen to God and experience His power and glory, by being witness to His healing and love. Sunday came and I returned to Quilon ( Paul did put me on the bus) and I went to Tangasseri ( Tangy ) on my own, no fear of travelling. I realise that, it sometimes becomes necessary to take yourself away from your comfort and security and then really look at your self and how fragile you can become, then you know that the Lord is the power that drives you. I was convinced that when I was in Bangalore, it was not necessary to come to Divine Retreat Centre to experience God, but now I am more convinced that coming to Muringoor is an experience that I relish and will treasure. I have made up my mind to return, but I have not set the date, the Lord will provide for that when He calls me back. One of my worries was that I had started an Internet home page on Bangalore, and did part history of Bangalore and part evangelisation, and one of the pages was ‘Potta’. Having confirmed that I was on the right track, I have desired to do the ‘Potta’ homepage more evangelical with the Divine Retreat Centre in focus when referring to Potta. I have got the permission from Fr. Augustine to go ahead with my idea, and with God’s grace, once I get my job organised, I will be back on the Net again.

I only hope and pray that my three friends from Bangalore who attended this particular week Retreat would be touched in their lives, and that God will show them His plan, for their names were also called out during one of the messages. I feel that it is a personal view that one has to be convinced that one needs to listen to God. No matter how many times people would tell you that you should have to go for a Retreat, you would listen politely and then forget, but when you are called by God, you will go quite unexpectedly and meekly, and then you really enjoy the Grace of God, and your eyes would see His power, love and supremeness. You will also learn the power of praise and song, and the praise of Alleluia which is the praise that the angels sing continuously without ceasing. The music ministry is really blessed, and the teams of husband-wife combination are really profound as they are so young and dedicated to the Lord, coming early in the morning and leaving late at night back home for one or two days in a week, week after week, and they also serve the ‘other side’ of the road to the local language group, and Tamil and Telegu groups. They share their lives and how God has worked in their healing and change of lifestyles. Their sharing is to be heard directly from them to feel the electrifying power of God, and how He works. Drug addicts, alcoholics, rock musicians have all turned to play and sing for the Greater Glory of God.

Wishing you all God’s Blessings, and invite you to visit the Divine Retreat Centre, Muringoor, Chalakudy, Kerala, if you have the time, you would need about 9 days to set aside, 7 days for the Retreat and others for travel. Remember once you decide that you want to go and enter, you will be churned out a different person at the end of the week. It may seem long, but it is worth the stay. If you give your time to listen to God, surely He will spend time listening to you, and hear you and speak to you. For more details visit the Potta Home Page. Now the Divine Retreat Centre has also opened Centres at one or two places to help people who cannot travel attend Retreats locally. The Centre at Bangalore I know is called the Renewal Retreat Centre.

Ronnie Johnson

Prayer before reading the Bible:

Merciful God, anoint me with Your Holy Spirit. As I read Your Word, let me hear Your voice speaking to me from within. Give me wisdom to understand Your message to me. Let Your Word be the joy to my heart and the light to my feet. Ge me strength to build my life on Your Word. Let it be done to me according to Your Word. May I rejoice in the blessedness of hearing Your Word and keeping it. Speak Lord; Your servant is listening. Thank You Jesus ... Praise You Jesus.

Go to other places in Kerala , Alleppey ( Alappuzha ), Quilon ( Kollam ), Tangasseri (Tangy), Chavara South, Cochin (Kochi )

Return to India Hello Bangalore Walla Namaskara!

Frank Melohn's Family Home Page - A man, touched by God. http://www.angelfire.com/me/melohnfamilyhomepage

Thought for the Day: Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will exalt you. James 4:10, Holy Bible

Book by Aravindaksha Menon who has been a preacher and a witness to Our Lord at Divine Retreat Centre for the last four years.One of the interesting books I came across at the Divine Retreat Centre, and sure could be an enlightment to many. The name is 'Divine Harmony' by, Aravindaksha Menon, published by Divine Printers & Publishers, Muringoor 680316, Kerala, India, Ph: 091-0488-843413 or 842513. Introduction Message to the Book: 'Br. Aravindaksha Menon has been a preacher and a witness to Our Lord at Divine Retreat Centre for the last four years. Menon reveals a big truth in these precious visions of his, which I feel, had been gleaned from the experiences in his life and his constant association with the Holy Spirit, more than from his scholarly faculties. When we go through the scriptures of all faith, we can see to our amazement, that the path towards salvation is almost one and the same. Here, Menon reaches at a more heavenly pasture, a step ahead, discovering that even the Saviour is one and the same. I pray, let this divine truth yield a rich harvest of celestial bliss in the minds of the readers'. - Fr. George Panackal Director Divine Retreat Centre.

I will put up the thumbnail pictures of the audio tape jackets as and when I receive them.