Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pilgrimage through the Backroads 6

... Continued from Pilgrimage through the Backroads 5

I passed through security first. Somehow they didn’t notice that Mustapha had a Sierra Leonian passport and did not have a visa or a letter of invitation to visit Rwanda. They just let him through, no questions asked!

All through this situation, Mustapha had this big joyful smile on his face. He kept saying, Daddy, don’t waary, don’t waary! But it just did no good for me ... I kept on waarying!

We flew to Bujumbura and sat on the ground there for 40 minutes. When I got a chance I moved up the aisle to chat with Mustapha again. I said, 'I think what we should do is, let me enter the terminal at Kigali first and I will forward this invitation letter to you on email so that it will be on your computer in case the immigration officials demand to see the letter in order to approve a visa.' Mustapha said, ‘I think it will be okay, don’t waary.’

As we took off from Bujumbura for the 25 minute flight to Kigali, I rattled on to Nancy about contingencies if Mustapha was refused entry: Who should I call in Nairobi? Where could I find the phone numbers? What should we encourage him to do there? How much would we need to give him for expenses? My mind was racing ... I was still trying to do God’s work, keep God’s promises and I was running down ... I just couldn’t keep this up much longer ... just a few more minutes and we would have the answers.

Nancy and I walked inside the terminal at the Kigali airport and stood in the residents line. Mustapha stood in the visa application line. We went through and waited for Mustapha trying to look inconspicuous. Just then the agent at the counter referred Mustapha to an officer emerging from an office: he was the supervisor, Oh, No! He scribbled something on the application form and Mustapha gave us a smile and a thumbs up, so we moved on to the baggage area. I couldn’t believe it! That wasn’t supposed to happen that easily!

We waited a while for our bags, but only three of our six checked bags came through. Don’t tell me, we are going to have come back to the airport again tomorrow! I stood in line to file a lost luggage claim, but I couldn’t find the luggage tags so I had no proof of lost luggage. I couldn’t believe it. Apparently the check-in lady had omitted to give us luggage tags in Nairobi. Nancy was nowhere in sight, so I couldn’t ask her. And I was exhausted. There was no point in standing in this line for another 40 minutes, then finding I could not file a claim with no tags. I just turned and walked out of the office.

I found Nancy and asked her about the luggage tags and she didn’t know where they were. I was so frustrated, I started rummaging through papers in my satchel, when ... yes ... the satchel slipped off the luggage cart and fell to the floor, hitting on the corner. And, yes, it had Nancy’s computer in it!! We’d have to assess the damage later.

Now it was time to make our way through customs and see if anyone was out front to meet us. Yes, there was Chris’s smiling face. He was in his pickup, not ours as we expected. So what’s up? 'Well, some small car problems. It just quit today and it wouldn’t start again.' Hmmm. Well, that’s something to deal with tomorrow. For now it was dinner at the Shelbys. Wow, good fellowship, good food, good to be home again! After dinner Chris delivered us to our house. As we drove up to the gate the house lights went out. Yes, this must be Rwanda, good to be home. We are Africans, we know how to function in the dark. Our first order of business was prayers of gratitude, that God had brought all of us home safely. Forgive me, Lord, for all my waarying! It didn't solve anything.' And the problems can wait until tomorrow...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

pilgrimage on the Backroads ... continued 5

Continued from pilgrimage on the Backroads ... continued 4
Race for Rwanda The Rongo workshop ended on Thursday afternoon, but we were still a long way from home. Our goal was to wrap up all the last activities, photos opps, handing out notes and certificates, closing speeches by 4:30 so that we could grab a matatu and make it to Nairobi by around mid-night. After saying our last goodbyes, we dropped by to see some old friends, Dennis and Mary Okoth, who had so kindly loaned us their car for the week. They gave us a quick tour of their retirement home before giving us a lift to Kisii town where we met up with others heading home to Nairobi from the workshop. Ten of us arranged for a matatu and left for the city by about 7:30. The group dropped us at the Mennonite Guest House about 12:30 a.m. and went on to their drops in different parts of town.

Nancy and I were settling into our room when I discovered that my wallet was missing. Oh, No! Surely we had had enough drama for one trip! I quickly looked up a name and cell phone number on the workshop participants list. Marube had been on the matatu with us, but he and a friend had already dropped and taken a taxi for home. He said, “Hold on, I will call you back.” He immediately directed his taxi driver to follow our matatu. They caught up with it at the next traffic circle in time to see Julianne alighting from the matatu with my wallet in her hand wondering what to do with it. Marube took it from her and ordered the taxi driver back to our guest house, then gave us a call that he was on the way. At 1:00 a. m. he delivered it to us. Thank you, brother and praise the Lord! What a relief! Imagine losing your drivers license, credit cards, $300 dollars and 17,000 Kenya Shillings on public transportation in a big city ... not a nice thought!!
The Mennonite is a quiet old guest house in the middle of a busy city where we have stayed dozens of time over the past 30 years or more. Friday morning was a leisurely break as we re-packed bags we had stored while we traveled out west.

At noon we headed out to the airport a little early to check in to our flight to Rwanda. The check in lady at the Kenya Airways counter said that our bags were over the weight allowance and we would have to pay extra. We made to rearrange and redistribute the weight among our bag and she finally forgave us for being overweight.

But she said our co-worker, Mustapha Sandi, a citizen of Sierra Leone, would have to show proof that he had applied and been approved for a visa for Rwanda. She said even if she checked him in, they would check him at the gate and would not allow him to board. Don’t tell me! I realized that I had forgotten to remind Mustapha to make his visa application online. Now it was too late to do so for this flight. We had him lined up for trainings beginning two days from now. I got on the phone to Rwanda and asked Charles, our administrative assistant, to call immigration and see what he could do. He said he would need a letter of invitation and that he would need 72 hours for a response from immigration. What to do now ...? Finally the agent checked Mustapha in when I said I would get on the internet and make the visa application. I was on the phone so Nancy picked up our passports, boarding passes and luggage tags.

As we looked for an internet cafe in the ground-level concourse a person of peace ‘happened’ by. She was also a staff person with RwandAir and seeing our anxious faces asked if there was anything she could do to help us. Mustapha explained his situation and she immediately called a contact in the Rwanda Embassy in Nairobi, who told her that if Mustapha had visited Rwanda before and possessed a letter of invitation, that he would likely be granted a Rwanda visa at the Kigali airport. Our person of peace encouraged us not to worry. But ... I was still worried because I had not done something I should have done and thus could jeopardize the mission.

I looked around the airport and couldn’t find a way to get online. We checked through immigration and went upstairs to a coffee house where I sat down and quickly typed out an invitation letter addressed to Mustapha as I intermittently talked with Charles, answering questions and trying to come up with a solution. Charles advised letting Mustapha stay in Nairobi for a few days until we could work on obtaining a visa but on such short notice I couldn’t think of a way to do that. With the invitation letter on a thumb drive I went into an internet cafe to see if I could get it printed, but they wouldn’t accept my thumb drive for fear of infecting their computers with viruses. Give me a break! I use Apple computers and we don’t have such things as viruses! I was forced to give up on printing out that letter.

Well, I had done all I could. It was time to start settling back and watch the Lord at work. But my flesh, my mind, was still whirring with contingencies, names, contacts, possibilities and ‘what if’s.

It was time to check through security one last time and move through to the boarding area. This would be the test: would they let Mustapha board the flight? To be continued ....

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pilgrimage on the Backroads ... continued 4

Barnyard Guest House - We arrived at Rongo in the mid-afternoon and were met by Charles Ngoje, a former student of ours from our days with the Nairobi Great Commission school back in the 1990’s. Charles had worked for two tours as a missionary in Moshi, Tanzania and in the interim period as director of the NGCS extension programs. Charles had developed into a respected leader and was now again working both with NGCS extension program and the Winyo Missions Centre.

Charles took us to the local Catholic guest house where we checked in. He recommended that we get settled in, rest and in the evening join others out at the village of Winyo where the workshop and meals would be served.

On finding our room, we discovered that the establishment would have been better named the Squeeze Inn. There was little room to turn around, hang clothes or towels. However, it did have clean sheets, running water and mosquito nets for which we were very grateful.

The place had a number of cows tethered on the grounds and thus had a strong barnyard odor that wafted into our room. One cow was within reach of our bedroom window. She seemed to have a strong urge to join in fellowship with us in our room. Bossy, as Nancy nicknamed her, insisted on trying to enter through the window on several occasions, the ring in her nose rattling on the glass.

God blessed our four days at Rongo. It was hot the first day of the workshop, but as is so often true in Africa, the heat was bringing on the rain. The second night a heavy lightening storm moved in and it rained most of the next day, a great blessing for the area farmers who had experienced a long dry spell. The downside of the storm was that the power was knocked out for most of second day, forcing the staff to use wood to cook our meals.

Thirty-two people came in for the workshop from as far away as Kisumu and Nairobi. Some of these were people were former students of ours at the Nairobi Great Commission School back in the 1990s. Others were were leaders in other churches and ministries who were dissatisfied with the status quo and ready for new perspectives and principles that move them on to a new level in missions. Some had been missionaries in other countries and were still infected with God’s compelling call to reach the lost. Of the groups we have trained or recruited for training over the past three years, none had represented more diversity in terms of ethnicity, gender and religious background and none had been more obviously prepared by God for this training at this time. It was a tremendous encouragement to work with such people.

Going back to the Bible for the principles of disciple making is a challenging process. It forces us to reexamine views and practices that we have accepted and taken for granted and been vested in for a long time. Accepting the new perspectives that come from this process requires a willingness to count the cost and pay the price of change and to sacrifice vested interest, control and to focus on our God-given role while trusting the Holy Spirit to do His work. To be continued ...

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Pilgrimage on the Backroads ... continued 3

No, Not More Bad News! - During the week at Siriat, we had worked out a way to configure a borrowed modem that would work with our computer so that we could at least download email and check on our family on Facebook, hungering for news about Marcus’ condition. Shona had written a long detailed email of the what happened, apparently dictated by Marcus, recounting the story of the accident and the events that followed and God’s obvious protective and provisional hand in it all. How sweet it was to get that message! What an answer to so many prayers! Nearly all of our children wrote something in the thread of messages that followed and all of this was so precious to us. Now all of that was locked in the dead computer.

But we managed to get Nancy’s computer online long enough to download some messages that evening. One message, titled ‘little issue’, caught my eye immediately. It was almost as if I was expecting some more bad news. Our teammate, Caleb Beck wrote in part, ‘It looks like someone may have broken into your house [in Rwanda] and stole at least one computer...’ My mind raced over the possible implications of this ... investigations, police reports, assessing what had been taken. We had not been home in over two months ... we knew so little. Immediately, we and our friends were in prayer about all that we did not know and could not do anything about.

Later that evening we heard from another teammate, Chris, who had spent hours that day working with Vicent, our guard, changing a door-lock and assessing what had happened. As it turned out, Vicent, a student who was working on his major senior project, had been working on a borrowed laptop until late at night, then went to bed in his separate quarters. The burglar/s had come in and apparently only taken the equipment Vicent had been working on. Nothing else in the house had been disturbed. It was a very mysterious incident and the first time this has happened at our house in Rwanda. While we knew Vicent would greatly disappointed at the loss of his research project, we were relieved that it was not a greater loss than it was.

It had been a stressful, tiring week; one in which we felt the Lord has tested us and the devil had tried to discourage and/or to distract us from the mission at hand. I began to think we must be threatening Satan a little for him to be lining such an array of worrying and distracting events in an attempt to keep us off balance. Mustapha and our Kenyan friends were such an encouragement to us and we were able to sweep the worries away and resolved to remain focused on the mission.

On to Lake Victoria Our hosts at the Siriat Bible School, Joseph and Christine Bett, were so gracious and generous to us. They provided ample meals for us and while the prevailing diet and lack of indoor plumbing was something we had not experienced for a while, the hospitality and warmth of their home was so much appreciated. On Friday morning we said our goodbyes and Joseph accompanied us to Kericho where he helped us find a connecting minibus on to Kisumu 70 miles further on the east shore of Lake Victoria. Dino met us at the central bus station and took us on to the Dew Church Drive Hotel that our host, Jared Odhiambo, had reserved for us. The hotel room was small and dark, but it was clean and air-conditioned. Overall it was a restful weekend that included a tour the Ringroad Church and orphan day school and clinic, a visit to the shore of Lake Victoria and a couple of nice meals out on the town of Kisumu. On Sunday we worshipped with the Ringroad church before packing onto another matatu shuttle for the two-hour ride to Rongo in South Nyanza Province.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Pilgrimage on the Backroads ... continued 2

Leading the Blind - On the first morning of the workshop, I dropped a contact lens from my left eye. (This happens about once a year on average). Nancy helped me search for it and it took about 30 minutes before we turned it up. But the next morning during our prayer time I lost the lens from my right eye. My lens often slips off my eye because I can’t pray very long with shedding tears. The right eye is the most critical to my vision and we looked for it for over an hour. Then I had to go on to the workshop, but Nancy kept searching for it for several hours, completely cleaning our room. But it was gone. Wow, that was discouraging. I wasn’t sure how I could continue and Mustapha carried a big load of the training for the next two days until I adjusted to using one eye.

Is God Calling me to missions? - The participants began to open up interact with us more by the third day. It seemed they were ‘getting it’ and eager to learn more. However, the basis of the training is not just to learn more but to obey what you know now.

For me the highlight of the five days in Siriat was the determination of our 20 participants to implement what they know in the home of the communities they come from. Two or three of the men said they felt the desire to go elsewhere on mission for God. I was blessed in particular by a 62-year-old retired teacher who said he thought God wanted him to move to another country to share the gospel. I asked him if his family was aware of his sense of calling to missions. He said he needed to talk it over with his family. I suggested that he pray about the matter for some time and see if God confirmed the urging he was sensing.

Computer Crash Crisis - On the Thursday after the final sessions of the workshop, we rushed around producing and printing copies of the workshop notes, participant lists and certificates. In our closing ceremonies Nancy passed the certificates and congratulated the participants on their faithful attendance and study. We took the official photos of the groups and were saying our farewells to all when I went back into the classroom to wrap up my materials and pack my computer. Then what every laptop computer user fears happened ... I bumped my laptop off the far side of my narrow table. It fell flat on the concrete floor ... aaaagh!!

I picked up the computer like it was my brain. All my files and communications for over two and a half years were on that hard-drive. There didn’t appear to be a scratch on the outer case. I opened the lid. That Apple Macbook was still running with no apparent damage. I couldn’t believe it. But it was low on power so I shut it down. As soon as I could I returned to my room to charge and restart the computer. No way. Now the computer would not read the hard-drive even enough to boot up.

Fortunately, back in Kigali, three months ago, I had backed-up all my files. But those were not accessible now here in Kenya. What were we to do? Well, we had completed the first workshop, that was good. And we had a three-weekend before the next workshop in another location. But I had only hard-copies of the materials and some files of notes from earlier workshops on my thumb-drive. Also we had Nancy’s computer, so we could still function. It just meant a lot of work to prepare for the next week. To be continued ...

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Pilgrimage on the Backroads ... continued 1

Matatu Sardine Can - A taxi deposited us at a bus loading area in downtown Nairobi where we squeezed into a 14-passenger van designed for 10, along with most of our hand luggage under our feet or between our seats. Our one suitcase was strapped on the top of the van as we waited 20 minutes for recruiters to flag down more potential passengers to fill the van. In Kenya, a matatu is never quite full it seems; ‘there is always room for one more.’

Soon our over-filled matatu was climbing to edge of the Great Rift Valley, then down to the valley floor and across the plains to Narok along the north side of the Maasai Mara. By shortly after noon we arrived at Kaplong, one kilometer from the Siriat Bible School. David Tonui met us at the gas station and took us to the home of Joseph and Christine Bett. Actually, it in the process of becoming their home the afternoon we arrived. David had lived there for 13 years as the director of the school and was loading a pickup of personal things to move to his little farm in the area.

You Should have Brought This Training Sooner - The next morning leaders and evangelists from the churches among the Kalenjin sub-tribes and the Kisii people began filtering in from as far as over 100 miles away. The group seems very formal and quiet, a persona we were not used to. Joseph was under a lot of pressure with the transition of his family to Siriat, so the first day of the workshop was a little disorganized, but it soon came up to speed.

Joseph was excited about the content and processes Mustapha and I were introducing. He said, ‘we needed this training 25 years ago. You should have brought it before the other evangelism methods.’ But I encouraged them, ‘we are also learning; we did not know all this before. But also, you were not ready to hear these things long ago. God has worked in you and prepared you for this time. Remember, we are not here to condemn or destroy the past; rather we are building on what you already know. Now you are hungry for more because your churches need revival and a new challenge for this time.’ To be continued ...

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Pilgrimage on the Backroads of Kenya

Let the reader beware, this is going to be a rather long and detailed post in several sections. It will also be rather reflective about where I am in the struggles of the kingdom.

Shangri-la on the Kenya Coast - Nancy and I arrived back on the Bright Continent on November 22, 2010, after several weeks in the U. S. After one night in Nairobi we flew down to be with our old friends, Jim and Laura Reppart for Thanksgiving in Malindi on the coast. It was a relaxed time to catch up on each other’s lives, experience some of the Caris Foundation’s programs there and get over jetlag before moving on to western Kenya.

Thanksgiving with Jim, Laura and Jane

That Friday afternoon, we flew back to Nairobi in time to meet our friend and co-worker, Mustapha Sandi of Sierra Leone who has been working in Zambia for the last couple of years. We stayed two nights at the Mennonite Guesthouse in Westlands as we have so many times over the past 30 years or more, so we could do some repacking as we prepared to head west on Sunday morning for a four–day workshop on disciple making and church planting.

Then late that night, we got a one-line email from our older son Dan in Arizona. The subject line was ‘Marcus Accident’. The message said, ‘Marcus [our younger son] has broken his femur – prayer please. He is in good spirits. In surgery now. More details to follow soon.’ Details were slow in coming and because of the time difference, it was hard to find a time we could talk. We didn’t have a phone that could work internationally. We did manage to get Dan on Skype the next morning but he knew little about Marcus’ condition. All we could do was pray. We knew as we left the guesthouse there would be little opportunity to email or even find an internet connection for most of the next ten days. So our anxiety level was high. To be continued ...

Saturday, October 09, 2010

African Leaders I have Learned from Lately

Arise my brothers! The task is not complete. This is Africa's time. It is time to take up our responsibility to further God's kingdom business in our continent! - Thomas Simubali

To workers in Rwanda: I am praying for you ... I believe God is doing something great and will let your dreams come through before the expected time. You are indeed consumed by a great passion which is commendable before God; but you can only accomplish what God has purposed through you. - Mustapha Sandi

White man, be careful when and where you go! Now is the time for us (Africans) to lead the mission on the ground. Otherwise wrong expectations will arise and the mission may be spoiled. - Cephas Kwambiliwa

We are tired of being controlled by outsiders. Africa has been called the dark continent. Yes, Africa is dark physically and economically. But Africa is the bright continent in spiritual things. - Lawrence Oduro

I had my doubts about Augustine. He had agreed to teach a workshop with me, but every time I called him he sounded sleepy on the phone. Later I talked with him about that. He said, "Well, yes, I go to sleep early in the evening; then I get up at 3 a.m. every morning to worship and pray for three to four hours." - Augustine Kawah-Jones

We have established a mission in Equatorial Guinea. Soon we will begin a branch of our company there. Recently we visited China. When we returned I felt a burden for the people. I believe that God wants us to do something in China. - Douglas Boateng

Monday, April 12, 2010

Allow the Little Children ...

On Saturday, I was privileged to be part of a mission to the village of Rutare in the south eastern corner of Rwanda. It was literally a few minutes walk from both Burundi and Tanzania. The purpose of the mission was partly to follow up and evaluate the progress from a previous mission to Rutare, but it was also part of an effort of our mission to initiate a Global Prayer Movement for Rwanda. The Bible studies for the day were to emphasize that God wants us to prayer for our neighbors and others that do not know Christ. While the classes were going on, two groups did some 'prayer-walking' through the village, praying for the community and for those meeting at the local church. The Result: the leaders of the church poured out their voices and their hearts in confession to God that they had been neglectful in not praying for their community and sharing their faith with their neighbors as they should have. We may look back in years to come and say that the Global prayer movement for Rwanda began last Saturday in the village of Rutare!!!

I have never been the greatest worker with little children, but there was no way to avoid it at Rutare. Jesus said, 'Allow the little children to come to me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.' Pray no only for the children of this village, but also that the adults will have the child-like hearts needed to receive the kingdom.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Me and Contact Lenses ... it has been a long walk

About an hour ago I was taking my wife to the airport as she is flying to Kenya for a retreat with other missionary women. On the way my right contact lens popped out of my eye. It was gone! We looked in my eye, no trace. We looked on my sunshades, all over the seat, the floor of the car. Nothing!

Usually about once or twice a week one of my lenses will slip off my cornea and into my upper or lower eyelid. Not this time. Gone! Well it was time to get on to the airport. In the parking lot, I slowly got out of the car, examined the folds of my clothes, the folds of my paunch, shook out the floor mat, examined the area on the car floor around the seat. No contact. I kissed Nancy goodbye and headed home.

I started wearing contacts lenses forty-five years ago. Back then the only kind were hard lenses. They were uncomfortable in my eyes, but they were much better than nothing. They often popped out of my eye, fell on the floor or the ground. Most people don't believe these stories, but it was amazing the way I lost and found my lenses over the years. When I got to Africa the roads were bumpy and dusty or muddy. I used to ride my motorcycle to town or to teach in the school. Once on my motorcycle, the wind blew out one of my lenses. Now get this. I stopped quickly, got off my bike and walked back along the dirt road and found my lens lying there in the road. On another occasion I was riding a bicycle to school on a rainy muddy day. I dropped my lens on the muddy road, stopped my bike, got off and went back and found the lens right next to a mud puddle. Many times I have lost and found lenses in my bed, on the floor on the ground, in many strange places. Nancy is always patient and kind to help me devise ways of finding lost lenses. In 45 years, I have only totally lost 2 lenses.

On our first furlough, my eyesight was really getting bad. In 1971, I walked in the office of a young optometrist in Abilene, TX. He was shocked at what he saw when he examined my eyes. He said, "I have never seen eyes like yours, my machine will not even measure them. You are going to be blind in 6 months." It was my turn to be shocked. The doctor offered to refer me to an ophthalmologist who saw me later that day. He said, "Yes, you have a condition called Keratoconus and you will need corneal transplants in both of your eyes. There is a nine-month waiting list for corneas."

When I heard this news I was devastated. I had nowhere to turn except to the Lord and to prayer for answers. Fortunately I was at a meeting to form a mission team for Africa, so was among friends who prayed for me. I had a wife (Nancy) and three very young children. I had no job, I had borrowed money to come to this meeting and then was told that I would be blind in six months. I couldn't get an operation for at least nine months. Even if I could have, I would not have been able to afford the surgery. But God hears and answers prayers. A doctor friend arranged to have an eye surgeon perform the surgery. A friend from college wrote all of our classmates and raised the money for the surgery.

I had a cornea transplant on my right eye in 1971 and another on my left eye in 1981. The left one failed and had to be replaced in 1998. Because of the nature of the cornea grafts, I have never been able to wear the soft lenses of today. My lenses are hard plastic; they are very small so that they fit inside the scar of the graft. They often slide off the cornea or pop out of my eye. But what can I say? Thirty-nine years ago, I had only six months until I would be blind. Today I have almost 20-20 vision. I am truly blessed.

... Well, I prayed on the way home from the airport this morning, that God would guide me to find that lost lens. I carefully got out of the car, searched my clothes and the seat and floor of the car again. Nothing. Then I went to my bedroom to search in my eye with a mirror, because that is where I usually find my lens. Nothing. I carefully retraced my steps to the car with a flashlight. After some moments of careful examination, there...between the handbrake and the driver's seat... there it was!! Praise God! I feel like the woman in Jesus' story of the woman who lost a coin. She swept her house until she found it. Then she called her friends and said, Rejoice with me; what was lost is found!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Resting in a Quiet Place

Sometimes it is just good to get away to a quiet place and rest for a while. That's true even if it takes while to get there. Last week was just such a time. Five men of our team in Rwanda, joined by a couple of visiting friends, traveled from Kigali all the way across Uganda 450 miles to western Kenya for three days of rest, renewal and recharging our spiritual batteries. We met at Rondo, a Christian retreat center in the Kakamega National Forest. It was a quiet time to spend in the word, in prayer and reconnecting with God's creation.

We joined other 20 other missionary men from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda for a time of fellowship, sports, table games, discussions of our ministries, worship and spiritual nurturing from the gospel of Matthew. Dr. Mark Love of Rochester College led our times in the word.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

DMM Retreat

Last weekend was a powerful and historic event for our team in Rwanda. We met for two days of prayer and beginning the development of a five-year plan for making disciples of Jesus all over Rwanda and beyond among the Banyarwanda, that is the people who consider themselves of Rwandan origin. They are about 20-25 million people worldwide.

The eight families, several singles and visitors added up to 39 who met to pray, to join one of four 'taskforces' to develop our objectives to reach every district (30) in Rwanda with some form of service, training, empowerment and the good news of salvation and hope in Jesus.

Now you are probably wondering, 'What is DMM?' Well, it is what we pray and plan will become a 'disciple-making movement.' Rwanda is highly 'churched', but we believe that we and many others whom God shall call, need to become true obedient disciples of Jesus.

Monday, January 04, 2010

'I Will No Longer Trust in Suits ...'

Yesterday we held a second anniversary celebration of the Xtra Mile Ministry, one of our programs under our Africa Transformation Network, NGO. On the program along with songs, prayers of thanksgiving and several speakers, were representatives of the ministry from various districts in the Rwandan countryside. Mostly these were young people in their 20s who are leaders or prospective university students in Xtra Miles' education program. Many of these young people are sole surviviors among families of six to eight parents and siblings. Others have one or two siblings who survived with them.

Various students were given two or three minutes to talk about their experiences with Xtra Mile. Some of them talked of how unimpressed they were at their first introduction to the Extra Miles leaders. When they heard that ATN was coming to their district they expected 'big people' to arrive in a Landcruiser dressed in suits and other accoutrements of big money with the promise of well-financed programs. When Charles Kabeza showed up in work clothes after a long bus ride saying that he represented a small NGO that had 'a big heart and a small pocket', they were quite disappointed. They expected failure and that his words and plans amount to nothing.

Now months later, after numerous visits, discussions, seminars on hope and leadership training, these young people had begun to develop a vision for their future. For me, the classic line of the day among the speeches came from one of the young women who stated that she 'will no longer put her trust in suits, but in the power of God.'

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Disciplemaking in Bukavu, DR Congo

Last weekend I spent four very interesting days in Bukavu, DR Congo. I accompanied Cephas Kawambiliwa who arranged and organized the trip. We left Kigali at 6:30 a.m. by bus and arrived at the Congo border about noon. It took about an hour to cross the border as I had to apply for a visa which cost me $50 for a week. Brother Jeff met us and arranged a taxi to take us to the guest house for visiting professors at a local university. Cephas would be teaching a short course at the university, so he arranged free housing and almost free meals for me as well.

After lunch, we rested a few minutes before taking a taxi to one of the departments of the university where there was an available classroom. Cephas had arranged for some of his 'Christian family' leaders to attend a training on concepts and processes relating to disciple-making. I introduced myself as someone who is a hunter. I am hunting for a few people who are tired of religion as usual and are desperate to share their faith with others.

CREIM Leaders

Several at the meeting had attended our August training workshops in Kigali. They have started doing discovery Bible studies in their house churches that they call 'Christian families.' They have also initiated at least three new house churches. On Sunday, Cephas and I taught about 6-7 hours. In the afternoon session we opened the floor to issues and questions relating to disciplemaking and church planting movements.

Monday morning we visited four or five of the Christian family meetings, prayed with and encouraged them. They greatly encouraged me to see their faith and commitment in the face of dire poverty and joblessness for some of the evangelists. On Monday afternoon several pastors from some of the Bukavu churches attended the training. Some of them are tired of the religious situation there and are seeking some training in disciplemaking.

Bukavu is a crowded little town. I had last visited here at the end of 1993, just three months before the beginning of the Rwandan genocide. In the past fifteen years people have been forced to crowd into this little town as the result of insecurity in the rural areas, the refugee crisis resulting from the genocide and subsequent wars in eastern Congo. Cephas told me that very little street maintenance had been done since the Belgians left. That was in my senior year of high school, 1960!! (After my visit to Bukavu, I have resolved to stop complaining about the sloppy, muddy street I live on in Kigali!!). Much of the housing in the town is built on very steep slopes. Houses are encroaching on the streets so that on some you can travel by taxi for a while; then by moto-taxi a little further, and finally the street is so narrow there is only room for pedestrian traffic. Though this is the rainy season, we had prayed for no rain this weekend as it would have prevented people coming to the training sessions. It was raining when we arrived at the border post but thereafter the weekend was almost completely dry except for a short shower. The day after the training, we had heavy rains right up to the time to return to the bus station.

My prayers are that there will be at least one if not several movements of churches under the passionate leadership of Cephas Kawambiliwa.