Freedom In Messiah: Breaking Free From Spiritual Bondage

Pastor Tom Burgo. (Photo by Alex Boutakov Phorography LLC)

By Pat Shea

Pastor Tom Burgo, 67, is evidence of a changed life. “In 1999, at age 47, I woke up in the middle of the night with some minor discomfort in my chest. Something told me I had to get up right away and have my wife Gail take me immediately to the emergency room,” said Pastor Burgo in a recent interview.

The preliminary tests at the hospital were inconclusive until a cardiologist did an angiogram and discovered that Burgo’s heart showed a 90 percent blockage.

“I had what they called ‘the widow maker.’ If I had gone back to sleep that night instead of going to the emergency room, I would have died,” said Burgo.

The near-death experience changed not only Burgo’s health outlook but his mental health outlook as well.

“I became very depressed,” admitted Burgo. “I used to work as an EKG technician and I understood the prognosis when a 47-year old man has a heart attack,” stated Burgo.

Eventually Burgo’s life resumed, until two years later in 2001, he suffered a second heart attack. Burgo realized it was time to make some changes in his life.

“Although I had been saved as a young child, I didn’t follow the Lord or study the Bible. But after surviving my second heart attack, I figured that God wanted me to do something with my life and I better figure out what it was,” explained Burgo.

Burgo turned to the Bible and began to study it. He found a hunger inside to learn more, and began to take Bible study classes at work, and then later at Elim Bible Institute and College. During the next seven years Burgo would take more and more courses and begin the processing of becoming an ordained pastor.

“Shortly after I began studying the Bible I also began listening to Christian radio,” said Burgo. “I heard a program by Ethel Chadwick called ‘Bagels and Blessings.’ It was a Messianic ministry of the Congregation Shema Yisrael. I suddenly had this passion to learn more. I went to Shema Yisrael and wandered into a Shabbat service. I kept attending services, but I didn’t become a member of the congregation yet. Then in 2011, I asked Shema Yisrael if I could complete a Bible Ministry internship with them as part of my requirements for becoming a pastor. They agreed. I also started working at their food pantry and eventually I became a member of the congregation. I was also ordained at Shema Yisrael.”

Freedom in Messiah

Life began to change tremendously for Burgo. In 2012, after almost a 39-year career with Kodak, he lost his job.

“I was one-month shy of celebrating 39 years with the organization when they let me go,” stated Burgo. Despite his belief that he had a strong faith walk with the Lord, he again struggled with depression.

“I felt like I was dragging a great boulder everywhere I went. I decided to take a class at Elim on Spiritual Warfare. It changed everything. I now felt as if I could start breaking the bondage that had held me back and prevented me from living the life the Lord wanted for me.”

That class put Burgo squarely on the path of what he believed the Lord had always wanted for him. He became an ordained minister at Shema Yisrael, as well as a trained Community Freedom Ministry (CFM) Associate. As a CFM, Burgo could apply the principles of Freedom in Christ, as taught and outlined by Dr. Neil Anderson in his book, Victory Over the Darkness and The Bondage Breaker, which helps those struggling to understand the freedom they have in the Messiah.

Burgo decided to start Freedom in Christ in Rochester, which later was renamed Freedom of Messiah.

“When I came to Shema Yisrael, I brought the information of Freedom of Christ and my ideas to create Freedom of Messiah and they completely embraced it. That’s how Freedom in Messiah, a ministry of the Congregation Shema Yisrael, was born. Our goal is to help others free themselves from spiritual bondage by helping them resolve personal and spiritual conflicts. We believe that true freedom comes from becoming a disciple of Yeshua and removing all barriers that keep us from having an intimate relationship with God,” explains Burgo.

According to Burgo, the root of many of today’s issues such as fear, anger, anxiety and addiction are actual examples of unresolved spiritual conflict.

“[At Freedom in Messiah] we have three teachings on the causes of spiritual bondage and how to get it out of their life. We train people on how to deliver that freedom message, and we take those who come to us for help through the process of forgiveness and living a Christ-filled life. The whole idea is that through proper discipleship we can learn to overcome the bondage, said Burgo.

Burgo stands behind the program and feels it can help many people fight off the feelings and urges that threaten a healthy and Christ-filled life.

“The one reason I’m so passionate about breaking free from spiritual bondage is that I know what it did for me,” states Burgo. “It takes the battle out of your mind. I understand now how some of the thoughts, urges and desires, such as addiction or suicide, can overcome a person, but I also understand now how to get those feelings to subside,” stated Burgo.

Freedom in Messiah is not professional counseling, but what is known as discipleship counseling. By teaching those struggling with spiritual bondage to understand and live the truths as taught by Messiah Yeshua (Christ) as the disciples did, Freedom in Messiah can help those in crisis work to break free emotionally and mentally from the past.

The ministry hosts small Bible study groups, individual short-term discipleship counseling, courses on Grace and other programs.

Helping those dealing with abortion

As Burgo became more and more involved with Freedom in Messiah, a need arose in the Rochester community to provide help to those who had suffered an abortion or were impacted by one. Burgo realized that these people, both women and men, needed to find freedom in forgiveness. This led him to create Freedom in Messiah’s sister ministry, Finding Freedom and Forgiveness Post Abortion (FFFPA).

FFPA offers a Biblical approach to healing from the emotional wounds caused by abortion including shame, anger guilt, anxiety and emotional pain.

Pastor Burgo is the director of FFFPA. Like Freedom of Messiah, this ministry also uses discipleship counseling along with materials by Ramah International, a post-abortion outreach and training organization founded by Sydna Massé.

Massé, was one of the first post-abortive women to share her story publicly on Focus on the Family Christian broadcast. For seven years Massé served as Focus on the Family’s Manager of Crisis Pregnancy Ministries. She now works at Ramah International and helps those that suffer from post-abortion syndrome, which the organization states is a form of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“FFFPA is still in the beginning stages and we are working hard to make people aware of the help and services we can provide, stated Burgo. “We use Massé’s book, Her Choice to Heal, which is based on the author’s own experience going through spiritual healing after an abortion as well as disciple counseling and other materials.”

Burgo states that staff will work with both individuals and groups to help those seeking help go through the process of forgiveness.

“We have trained believers who can help walk people through their issues and help to resolve their spiritual conflicts. We are all brothers and sisters and we are all helping each other learn what God wants us to do with our lives,” stated Burgo.

As he looks toward the future, Burgo’s goal is to help others change their lives for the better —just as his life turned around after he broke free from spiritual warfare.

“I’d love to see both our ministries grow and expand and be able to teach and train new leaders,” stated Burgo. I hope that everyone can learn how to live free in Yeshua so they can embrace the fruit the Lord has for them.”

Freedom From Forgiveness Post Abortion (FFFPA) and Freedom in Messiah have offices at 1200 A Scottsville Road in Rochester. For more information on Freedom in Messiah, visit www.FreedomInMessiah.org  For more information on FFFPA, visit www.fffpa.org.