We had the privilege of chatting with Irene Schandorf.
- Can you briefly share the story of who you are and how you came to personal faith in Christ?
I grew up in a Christian home. My dad is a retired priest and so from infancy, my Christian life was all about going to church and playing key roles in the church choir. As I grew up, I had the “in and out” relationship with God. There were times I would be so much into Him and other times I would be totally off. At that time, I was just existing under God’s grace and most of the things God used me for, was purely the Holy Spirit coming upon me to bless others. I operated under the anointing to minister songs, discernment between spirits, prophecies, and interpretations of tongues which was beneficial to the student’s union as we undertook village evangelism during long vacations. I prayed and joined group bible studies, yet, aside from doing my quiet time using the devotional book in the mornings, I hardly took time to study the Word of God by myself. It was not until a couple of years after I had gotten married that I felt been drawn back to the Lord. I had left my church and joined my husband’s church. It was a smaller church thus, everyone had to play a role including preaching the word of God to the congregation. When the idea came that we should start a young women ministry in the church, I was happy to join and during our first meeting, I met a young lady (Zubi) with so much zeal for the word of God who had agreed to lead us in bible studies. As I watched her moderate our bible discussion, I desired in my heart to be like her. After that day, I took more interest in reading my bible and gradually over the years I gained an understanding as I prayed more and developed my relationship with the Holy Spirit. I therefore took the challenge to always share the word in our monthly young women ministry meeting. Along the line, God brought an old friend back to my life ( Bernadine) and she helped revive my prayer life as we met in her office every Friday after work to pray with other friends of hers (Francis, Prosper & Wisdom). By the time the enemy struck my marriage, I was at a point that was difficult to let go. I had tasted God to a level and thus even though I was hurting and felt like giving up, I could not do it. It was a real test of my faith. All that I had studied over the years was being put to test. How could I give up on my marriage when I had been encouraging others to obey God? I had to trust than God will work it all out, even though in the midst of it all, I did not know whether I will survive. In the end, He worked on my heart and taught me to love His way and not my way. Today looking back, I have experienced his word in Romans 8:28 “all things work together for those who love God and have been called according to his purpose”. For me, it has been a journey walking towards faith. I cannot pinpoint exactly when it started and certainly it has not ended.
- What prompted you into ministry?
An interesting one. When I started reaching out to others, I did not see it that I was in ministry. In my mind, I had identified the keys which helped me to overcome a serious challenge that almost broke my marriage. This was Loving Gods Way. Naturally, I am a person who likes to share, thus when God started directing people to me with similar issues, I saw an opportunity to share what He had taught me. So over the years, I was willing to share with close friends and colleagues and had no idea what God had in store for us. So in a nutshell, I will say the burden God put on my heart to help others succeed in their relationships with others (marriage, family, colleagues, friends), is what pushed me to what I will now agree to as Ministry.
- What is your view on this scripture? John 15:19 “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, that is why the world hates you”.
These words of Jesus Christ encourages those who belong to Him that they will be enemies of the world. This is because we cannot belong to Him and still be friends with the world. It will be like having double standards which is not acceptable to the Lord. Anyone who wants to follow Him must first deny themselves (old patterns of life before becoming born again) pick up their cross and follow Him. Salvation is by grace and once you confess and believe you are saved. However, there is a conscious effort that has to be made by each Christian to be totally transformed by the Holy Spirit into the image of Christ Jesus. This means you have to submit your will to God’s will. This is when people of the world begin to see changes in you and then, they start mocking you. Your desires for evil habits and behaviours will be broken and suddenly, you do not enjoy hanging out with people you used to walk with. Or you decide to stop evil deals and become an enemy to your friends/colleagues or even your own family. Christ is therefore telling us to expect that, when you belong to Him, you should not be surprised when you face animosity and are pressured to choose Him over your old way of life. It is a difficult time in every Christian’s life. However, if you stay focused on His word, you will prevail over the world for He has made the provision to you succeed through His grace.
Titus 2:11-14 New International Version (NIV)
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
- Your ministry is very different, why this concept of creating a virtual prayer/ bible discussion group?
During the year 2018, it became very challenging to have consistent physical meetings on Thursday evenings. We were losing fire and I was weary because people were not showing up as usual and there were genuine reasons e.g. caring for kids, pressures from jobs, etc. So in Jan 2019, when a colleague at work invited me to talk to another group of women on the topic of marriage after I shared with her to encourage her, I took up the challenge. It was there that I discovered the application zoom cloud meeting. I saw this as a way to revive Praying Women and reach out to more people. If we do not have to travel physically to meet and can still meet on-line and pray why not. And as people joined and they were blessed, they invited more friends and family to join. Although we meet face to face every quarter and also during our outreach programs, most of our prayer and bible study time is online. Reflecting now, I believe God had a hand in all this because if we were stuck at physical meetings it would have been difficult to sustain the fellowship in the COVID 19 era. Now whether you are abroad or in Ghana, you can tune in at any time to fellowship with us. We may be locked down at the moment, however, we are still able to carry out the Vision God gave us which is raising “Mighty Ones of Valour”. This vision is found on the scripture:
Psalm 24:3-5 New King James Version (NKJV)
Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
By revealing this Vision, the Lord is seeking that the fellowship will build up strong men and women whose desires are to please God in all their endeavours. People of strength, courage, good character, full of love, and ready to serve the Lord. They will stand in the gap and pray for their families, friends, nations, and churches and cause heaven to move in their favour because they have learned to be obedient to God’s word and therefore have favour with the Lord. They will die to the flesh and live for Christ daily because their love for God is what drives them. They trust the Lord in the good and bad times, understand that He is the lifter of their heads, believe that God makes all things beautiful in its time, and is working everything out for their good because they love Him.
These men and women will have access to the throne room of grace and will do great exploits for the Lord. In effect, they will stand in the Holy Place of God and their intercession will be answered by He who has called them.
- Can you share your beginnings with us? How did it all start?
It all started in 2016 with a close friend called Bernardine. We were meeting and praying on family issues in my home. Over the years the Lord added more close friends both married and unmarried women and we met together to pray, shared the word, and encouraged each other every Thursday evening. On 9th February 2017, Stephanie, one of us created a WhatsApp platform to facilitate easy communication amongst us, and that is when we decided on the name Praying Women with 15 members. Aside from the weekly meetings, we added on in 2017, all-night programs every 1st Friday of the month.
In these meetings, we had wonderful encounters with the Lord and it was a joy to meet on Thursday evenings. There were times we did not want to go and will close after 12 am as the presence of the Holy Spirit was so strong. The group struggled over the years with the consistency of members attending meetings, but the Lord kept us going. One thing for sure was that the Lord was working on us to reach out to others but we had no idea how and when. In Feb 2019, we started having on-line meetings using Zoom cloud meeting application. This opened the door to have frequent prayer times as well as more opportunities for people to join and benefit from fellowshipping with the Lord via our platform. Getting to the end of 2019, God brought men on board and we gladly opened our arms to them. Thus in Jan 2020 we changed our name to Praying Men and Women.
- To what extent do you feel your formal education equipped you for effective ministry?
It will be a lie if I credit what we do today to the fact that I had formal education and just to be transparent, I have had no formal education on theology. Although I will say that the ability to organize the group’s activity and schedules can be attributed to the fact that I have had experience working on projects in my career. So working with Microsoft applications such as Excel has been beneficial. Even then, all the ideas on what to do came from the Lord and from other members. Therefore I would say if anyone is willing, God can use them. They may not have had a formal education, but God can give them the wisdom to identify people who have the right skills and knowledge to build their ministry.
- What are some of the challenges you face as a group?
One of the challenges we face is the difficulty in reaching out to all members on the platform to ensure that everyone is engaged and is growing in the faith. As the numbers grew, it became difficult for me to know all of them and have a personal relationship with everyone. So what we have done is concentrate on building up the leaders of the prayer trains so that they will grow stronger and help nurture new members that come on board. We are not there yet but gradually we will.
- Despite the challenges, were there thoughts of you quitting at one time? What made you hold on and be where you are today?
Weary, yes, but not quitting. In 2018 when everything was revolving around me, I asked myself where I was going, and whether this was really God’s will. Thankfully when I got the wisdom to delegate to other members, that burden was lifted. Also at that time, I was still seeing all this as creating an environment where people could pray, worship and grow and thus, it had not sung in that it was a Ministry.
Again, when we started, there were times you will get only 5 people for the all-night sessions and that was disheartening and you wondered whether you should continue. But along the line, the numbers improved. There were days when it was only Bernadine and I online praying. But we pressed on, praying and trusting in the Lord that we were doing the right thing. What made us hold on was the fact that God always had a way of sending us a word that He was with us and so we could not just give up. We had to hold on to that word, till it came to pass. He has been faithful on this journey and still remains faithful. A good example is when we had to raise funds for our last village outreach. Two weeks to time I had no idea how we were going to fund the bus and all the other purchases which we intended to send to the village as gifts. But by a week to time, we had raised more than enough money to make that journey to spread the Gospel and touch lives.
- Do you have any projects you are undertaking?
Currently, we do village Evangelism, donations to the orphanage and raising funds to support people’s medical bills. When we go to the village and we identify a need we raise funds to do it. For example last year we constructed a borehole of the village we went to that has no drinking water. The main project God has put on our hearts to do is to reach out to street children. This is yet to start. Our plan was 2020, and we are trusting God to kick start that as soon as we go out of this COVID 19 situation.
- How do you blend ministry with family and work?
That is a tough one. But I thank God for a husband that is supportive. However, in the last couple of months, I have made a conscious effort to make time for family. In the beginning, I used to lead most of the prayer trains. I started by developing a roster and assigning others to lead which allowed me to have free time for family. So today we have 39 prayer train leaders who run 26 prayer trains in a week. Each train has two people who back up with each other. This gives me time to manage the other activities of the group.
- Is living in Christ difficult in today’s world?
If one sees everything from the world’s point of view it will be difficult. However, when you understand that you have been bought with a price and you no longer live for yourself it is easy.
2 Corinthians 5:14-18 New International Version (NIV)
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on, we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.
It is easy to live in this wicked world when you are completely sold out to Christ, and you know that you are building your treasures in heaven and therefore each day you offer your body, emotions, feelings, and thoughts as a living sacrifice to Jesus. At that point, you are dead to self, and thus not moved by what people, say or don’t say, do or don’t do, but moved only by the Word of God who is Christ Jesus Himself. You will love others because you know loving them is your act of worship to Christ who loved you first and laid down His life for you. You will choose to do the right thing even when no one is watching because you live for Christ.
- What advice do you have for people who pray and do not receive the answers they desire to achieve?
God always answers but sometimes it is not in the way or the timing we expect hence our conclusion that he has not answered. God is our father and He knows what his duty is for every child that is His. There are so many reasons why we may not get answers to our prayers in the form, or timing we wanted. But when a child of God knows deep within that you are walking in His word, then you would understand that your father in heaven knows what is best for you. Keep praying and rest in His promises. He is not a man that will lie and He is faithful to the end. Many times, a “No” or a delay is what you need to grow in your faith. James 1:2-3 says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
Ministry Name: Praying Men and Women Fellowship (PMWF)
Profile: A non-denominational Christian group of Men and Women willing to know God and submit their will of Him.
Vision: Raising Mighty Ones of Valor (Psalm 24:3-5)
Activities: Prayer/Intersessions, Bible Study, Worship Marathons, Village Evangelism and sharing the love of God through giving to the needy.
Praying Men and Women Fellowship