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.