Sunday, December 20, 2009

Omar's Dangerous Dream

Last night Omar had a dream in which he saw someone standing in the corner of his room. The person he saw in his dream had scars in the palms of his hands. Omar identified the person as Jesus Christ. He said Jesus instructed him to read Ezekiel 12:1-3 and then to find some Christian to explain to him the meaning of this verse. Early this morning, Omar arrived at a local church and told his story to two of the church leaders. They met outside because Omar said he could not go into the church building.

Until this morning Omar was a sheik in one of the mosques in the city. He had studied the Kur'an in Medina and was now a teacher in the mosque. After visiting with the church leaders he said he understood that his people were unreceptive to hearing from God. He said he believed that God wanted him to leave the mosque and to follow Jesus. He accepted Christ as his savior.

Then Omar drove back to the mosque and turned in his car and his books. He left his house and returned to the church toward the end of the Sunday morning service. He said that the leaders of the mosque then burned all of his belongings. One of the church leaders told me his version of what happened earlier. Then I met Omar and learned more of his story.

He said he was married to a woman and that he had a second wife who was 'a spiritual wife' that he been given to him by 'majini', the spirits. It was this spiritual wife who communicated with him and told him that his belongings had been burned and that he should go into hiding. Omar was waiting for the church leaders to decide what they could do to help him find a place to stay. The church leaders were caught in a dilemma. They were not sure of the truth of Omar's story and wanted to check it out further. On the other hand, they did not want to shun a person who had just accepted Christ. I don't know how this will work out.

Omar's story has a familiar ring to it. Many Mus1ims have come to Christ because of what they saw in a dream or vision. If his story is true, Omar will pay a high price for his decision to follow Christ. He is in danger of being killed because of what he knows. He will be disowned by his family and will likely have to live in hiding and maybe move to another country. Pray that Omar will have the faith and courage to follow the course he has chosen and to be a witness to others.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A Time of Life When You Say "... I'll see you later"

Bill and George were boys who were born in Africa as missionary kids as I was. The three of us were about the same age. We grew up together on the same 'mission station' in Northern Rhodesia in the 1940s and '50s. Bill and George were my best friends. As young boys we played Red Rover, hunted antelope and shot at crocodiles along the Kalomo River; we explored much of the African 'bushveld' on the mission station.

George was an amateur biologist and a consummate prankster for as long as I can remember. He would sneak around and drop a frog in your pocket if he could get away with it. But he couldn't keep a straight face ... his face gave him away on every trick.

Bill was a dreamer and a storyteller. He would launch into to his old African or other stories whenever their was a lull in the conversation and someone looked like they might give him their attention. He amazed you with all the details of the events that he could remember. I could never recall those details even if I had been a major character in the story.

After grade school we went off to boarding school in Lusaka, the capital city. There we grew to become young men who felt our independence at a pretty early age. The British boarding school made us tough and responsible for our own lives. With no parents around we had only our friends to rely on. We learned to swim, play rugby, bunk out (leave the dorm after hours without permission), walk six miles to the movie theater on Saturday afternoons and ride the old steam-driven train home overnight on holidays and long weekends. Oh yes, and do some studying too.

In the early 1960s, all three of us traveled to the states and attended Harding College together. After college, our lives took different directions. George went on to become a medical doctor who practiced in Northeast Arkansas. Bill became a professor who taught languages at McMurry University in Texas. Both became well-respected in their professions. And I returned to a life in missions in Africa. Thereafter we would only meet occasionally and get a chance to catch up on each other's lives.

Is this when you begin to say to your friends of faith, "You go on ahead ... I'll see you later"? George went on to be with the Lord a few years ago after a difficult struggle with cancer. Bill and I were both able to be at George's memorial service.

Then Bill died suddenly of a heart condition last month. Nancy and I happened to be in the U. S. and were able to attend his memorial service. We heard some of those old stories again from Bill's friends and more we had never heard before. And we were blessed to meet some of Bill's family we had never known.

It must be that time of life ...

Monday, August 31, 2009

Planting more seeds of disciplemaking

In our time in Rwanda, I would say that August 'was the month that was.' And the third week of August was the week that was. I think the week-long training workshop in obedience-based disciplemaking had a tremendous impact on at least ninety-five people from 19 countries who met in Kigali, Rwanda.

Sentences like, 'Unbelievers do not want your religion' and '...we don't do personal evangelism...' or 'The two greatest killers of church planting movements are paid pastors and church buildings...' challenged us to the core and forced us to 'unlearn' many of our cherished opinions and practices. The teaching text is the Bible only, not the Bible plus. After the first day of the workshop, Peter Donkor of Ghana said, "I am here for two purposes: 1) to unlearn ineffective practices and 2) to learn a better way.

From the planting of the fresh seeds of disciplemaking the way Jesus taught his disciples, may God by the power of His Spirit bring forth abundant fruit all across the Bright Continent.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

You'll be Safe if You are Covered in the Blood

Yesterday was one of those 'heavy days' among my experiences here in Rwanda. When we have guests and there is enough time, we try to give them feel and and taste of where Rwanda is right the people feel about life, hope and the future. Usually at least one stop is a memorial site. Dottie Schulz and Dale Hawley have been visiting and I took them south of Kigali to the Catholic Church of Nyamata, now an official genocide memorial site.

The dark and dusty blood-stained clothing of thousands of people is still stacked in piles on the pews of this church that would seat perhaps 400-500 people. Nearly 7000 people were slaughtered in this now serene silent sanctuary; another 4000 were killed on the grounds surrounding the building. Thousands of bullet holes riddle the corrugated iron roofing sheets.

Our guide for the tour of the site was Charles, a young man about 23 years of age, who speaks very good English. He began by thanking us for coming to visit Nyamata. He said, 'you have come from far because you understand the value of life, and yet very few Rwandans visit this place to see what happened here.' Charles wanted to tell us part of his story. He said, "Sometimes I cry when I tell my story, but I am not traumatized." Charles was an eight-year-old boy on April 7, 1994 when the killers came to Nyamata Church. He and all of his family had come to find refuge in the church.

Most of the people in the building were killed that day. Others lay mortally wounded or tried to bury themselves among the bodies so as to appear dead. The blood of the dead flowed forward toward the altar and stood in pools. Charles' older brother forced him to lie down and 'sleep in the blood.' "You'll will be safe if you are covered in the blood," he said as he splashed blood over the little boy, who then lay there asleep for hours. The next day the older brother found that their mother, father and Charles' twin brother had all been killed just a few feet away.

Charles showed us the mass underground graves where the remains of thousands of people lay in coffins neatly decorated with flowing fabrics and stacked 12-14 feet high. Most of the remains are unidentified, but Charles showed us the coffins that hold the remains of his parents and other family members.

Before we left Charles thanked us again for coming to pay our respects to the dead and to listen to what happened at Nyamata. And we thanked him for exposing himself again to the many painful memories of his past as he has re-told his story to perhaps hundreds of people over the years.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

A Different 4th of July

Yesterday was an interesting and different kind of 4th of July for us. While some of the rest of our team went to the U. S. embassy for the annual luncheon and games there for Americans in Rwanda, Nancy and I attended the Rwanda Liberation Day ceremonies at the national Amahoro Stadium. A friend had given us a special invitation to the celebration. The special program was commemorating the 15th anniversary of Liberation and the ending of the genocide against the Tutsi people. It was quite a moving experience to watch and listen to the singing, the parades of the army and the police, the bands, the national ballet, etc.

For us the highlight of the day was hearing the speeches of those Rwanda was honoring for supporting them during the war to liberate Rwanda and stop the genocide (1990-1994). The honorees included the widow of President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, President Zenawi of Ethiopia and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. Some of these were African leaders whom we have heard of and read about for years. It was historic to hear them recount what happened as they helped each other lead their countrymen to break free of the indignities of colonialism and succeeding despotic regimes.

We are really proud of what the Rwandan leaders are doing to stabilize their country, repatriate all Rwandans refugees, put Rwanda on a track for greater prosperity in the future. It will be a long road, but they are determined and we honored to join hands with our friends to make whatever small contribution we can to the task of spiritual and physical reconstruction. It is a time of hope in Rwanda when it seems there is not enough hope to go around in Africa.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

An Audience with President Kagame of Rwanda

Today was a very interesting day. Last night we got a call from the leader of a Pepperdine student group who had completed a study course in Uganda and were touring Rwanda. Through some weird connection they had arranged to have an audience with the President of Rwanda and the Minister of Education. Bobby Garner invited Nancy and me to join them for the event.

This morning we met with the Minister of Education, Madame Daphrose Gahakwa at the Heaven restaurant for 'interviews.' We talked about how Pepperdine would like to build a closer relationship with Rwanda. Dr. Gary Selby filled in the minister on some of the desires of Pepperdine to make a difference in the world through its students and its programs.
About noon we moved on to the compound of the president's office. We were seated in the circular cabinet room where each of the inner seats had a microphone. At about 12:45 the president joined us and introductions were made by the Minister of Education. Bobby Garner introduced the group and told of their purpose. Gary Selby then explained the desire of Pepperdine University to become more involved in serving in East Africa to make a difference and in particular to do more in Rwanda. Bobby went on to explain the establishment of Africa Transformation Network and its partnership with Kibogroup who intend to do projects that will assist the people of Rwanda and the region. An example of this is Kibogroup's plan to build a factory in Rwanda to produce MANA (Mother Administered Nutritive Aid) products to help save children from life-threatening malnutrition. Then floor was opened for students and others to ask questions of the president. Some of these were very thoughtful and the answers very enlightening.

At one point I got a chance to remind His Excellency, that Dr. Mike Oneal, president of Oklahoma Christian University had invited me to offer a word of welcome to President Kagame and his entourage on the occasion of his visit to OCU to inaugurate the Presidential Scholar's program for Rwandan students in April 2006. I had been distinctly honored to do so and appreciate that he, the President and his government, in turn, has been very welcoming of those of us who have come to serve the people of Rwanda. I offered to serve as a liaison between our networks in America and the government of Rwanda to make a difference for the nation and people of Rwanda. At this point, the president turned to his minister and said, "You should be working with this man." To which she responded, "I am working with him."

The President went on to say that he was scheduled to be at Oklahoma Christian University to be the commencement speaker for the first class of Rwandans who will be graduating in April, 2010.

The whole group of us were greatly honored that the President gave us a whole hour and a half of his time on what he called his 'day of rest.' The president commented as the meeting came to a conclusion that none of the women had asked any question or made any comment and he did not want to be accused of being 'gender insensitive.' He said, "It is not my fault!" to which there was a hearty round of laughter. Then we adjourned for a photo opportunity and some interviews by the press.
I feel that this meeting really opened the door of opportunity for our Christian schools, universities and other organizations to do significant service in Rwanda. The government here has been very intentional about creating a healthy climate to make this happen, be it business investment or not-for-profit development. It is very purposeful about not allowing a culture of dependency on foreign aid to develop in Rwanda. The government recognizes that it needs partnerships in development in the short term... so that it will not need aid in the longer term. In the time we have lived in Rwanda, Nancy and I have been deeply impressed with the quiet committed determination of the national leadership at all levels to serve the people and overcome the devastating effects of their tragic history. Who will come and join them in their quest to redeem Rwanda?

See also:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Race Across America

... Well it felt like a race, anyway. From April 14 to June 9 we slept in at least 24 beds, traveled in five states, visited and spoke at three of our four supporting churches, helped to host 6 Africans and 8 future African missionaries at the Pepperdine Bible lectures, collected numerous resources for our ministries in Rwanda, helped to host a Church Planting Movements seminar, did some training with a mission team destined for Angola, networked through conference calls and face to face meetings to promote kingdom work in Africa and Rwanda in particular.

It was especially fun to host our Rwandan colleague, Charles Kabeza, at several churches and Christian Universities. There was great interest in the Xtra Mile Ministry that Charles founded in 2007 and which is now serving 600 genocide orphans in five districts of Rwanda. We are praying that new partners will join in supporting this work that is giving new hope and a future to so many.

Then the last week, the highlight of our time in America, was a family vacation. Our two boys' families live on the same street in Anthem, Arizona and they housed and fed all fifteen of our family. There were outings with the grandchildren, projects with the grandchildren, a trip to the Grand Canyon. And each night after the little ones were in bed, we took the chance to hear in turn each one's life story and to recount the ways we could see in retrospect the marvelous works of God in our family. For Nancy and me it was a time of learning about how children and especially Third Culture Kids experience the world around them as they are growing up. The effect of those times of sharing was to draw all of us together in a deeper, richer relationship as a human family and a part of the family of God. Lord, thank you for this time of life when we learn so much from our kids!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

“Covering Kigali With Quilts!”

The ladies chosen for our pilot project are now into their 6th week together learning the art of traditional piecing and quilting. All eight women are experienced seamstresses already, and some of them have their own businesses either in dress-making or crafts. The idea behind this class is to bring higher value to what they are able to produce, thereby increasing their business potential. We are meeting four days a week and the women are enthusiastic about what they are learning, some arriving early in the day for extra time in making their quilt blocks.
After about the second week, one woman began taking the simple designs home to the tailors who work for her with the idea of producing and selling them right away. Now I think they all understand that these are just the basics we are learning, so that they will have the skills to design something on their own which will be unique and Rwandan in flavor. I call it, American traditional quilts meet beautiful African fabrics. We will use African fabrics to make beautiful wall hangings and other crafts.
Time is set aside every day for sharing what is going on in our lives and reading the Bible and praying together. The group is assisting each other as needs arise and great friendships are being formed around these sewing machines.

Eventually we would like to help with establishing wider markets, since the tourist and local market here is not very extensive. We believe with high quality workmanship and attractive designs, we can make a difference. One of the ladies who manages two crafts shops in town was recently heard saying, “I’m soon going to be covering Kigali with quilts!”

Sunday, February 15, 2009

ATN Begins to Touch a Community

God is bringing together a growing mission/service corps in our part of Kigali, Rwanda: more people, new ideas, fresh energy and greater service in our neighborhood and the nation.
The Xtra Mile Ministry has been reaching out to communities of genocide orphans for more than a year in various districts in different parts of Rwanda. The ministry has become 'family' to many who have no biological family by showing these young folks that they are not forgotten. Last month the Xtra Mile Ministry introduced its Educational Initiative to assist genocide orphans in funding their university education by arranging employment and scholarships for them to go to school part time.

The government of Rwanda has mandated that all primary and secondary school teachers from Grade 1 and up must be able to teach in English beginning in January, 2010. This has produced a huge incentive to learn English, and an opportunity for Africa Transformation Network to assist teachers and other professionals in attaining English proficiency.

This week, under Nancy's direction, ATN unveils a sewing course pilot project aimed ultimately for marginalized women who need sewing and craft-making as well as business skills to develop income-generating small businesses and cooperatives.
By April 1 we plan to begin offering three levels of courses in Computer Training led by Murphy Crowson and small business courses organized and taught by David Kimbrow.

Each of these ministries is designed to attract and empower people who have the potential to impact others in holistic ways; to effect transformation of individuals, families and neighborhoods spiritually, socially and economically in the name and spirit of Jesus Christ. By serving we gain the right to speak.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A water station on the road

Well, yesterday was a big day for us. I got my passport back from Immigration and in it was stamped a work permit, being legal permission to live and work in our 'adopted' country, Rwanda. What an honor to gain this legal status in the land where Nancy and I sensed our call from the Lord to serve here more than five years ago.

It is has been a long journey since we determined this was the direction the Lord was leading us, the formation of a 'board' of missionaries and Rwandans working together to form an entity that could be recognized by the government, the process of application, gaining district registration, finding, remodeling a property, ordering furniture, pushing on to provisional national registration ... and now the first work permit to be issued under Africa Transformation Network. It probably isn't very significant in the overall scheme of things, but it is to us - because it is an indicator of God's strong arm and his faithfulness to us.

As I write, Nancy and I are sitting in the Kigali airport at 4:30 in the morning, waiting for a flight to Zambia, to take a break and to encourage my sister and brother-in-law who seek to serve the people of Zambia, but are facing similar hassles of a bureaucratic nature. Sometimes a break comes at just the right moment, a time to get away from the fray...a water station on the dusty road.

Friday, January 02, 2009

More Reinforcements for the Task

It was back in November 2005 when four missionary men from Togo came to Rwanda to visit for the first time. They were Murphy Crowson, Marty Koonce, Matt Miller and David Reeves. They came to confirm the sense that God had called them to Rwanda to serve him; and they came to scout out the land. During the course of the time they were in Rwanda they determined that God was calling them to settle in the Muzanze area.

This week, over three years later, two of those men, Murphy and Marty have returned with their families to settle in Rwanda and learn how to relate to and become a blessing to the people of Rwanda. Others will follow when their work in Togo is completed.

Marty and Louise Koonce, Murphy and Christine Crowson and their boys

It is great blessing to have these seasoned and experienced missionary families join the work in Rwanda. They will live in Kigali for some months as they acclimate to the language and culture of Rwanda and complete the processes of gaining legal status as residents, clearing the shipment of their belongings etc. They are welcome reinforcements for the mission task the Lord has for us here.