Monday, February 18, 2013

Disciple Making Training in West Africa

Twenty-six church leaders and evangelists from five nations of west Africa made their way to Dakar, Senegal mostly by taxi or bus arriving Saturday, February 2.  We worshipped together on Sunday and rested from our travels.  Our workshop facilitating team and some of the participants were hosted by some of the employees of Douglas Boateng's company here in Dakar.  They have been great hosts and servants, cooking our meals, doing laundry and cleaning our rooms.

The workshop was five days long but not long enough to do what would have like to cover because of our linguistic handicaps.  About 1/3 were most comfortable using English, the other 2/3 needed French translation, so what with questions and 

clarifications, the conversations were slower.  But the CPM models and principles are such a fit especially for churches of Christ people that by the end of the week, we experienced a strong sense of inspiration and encouragement in the participants.  The group consisted of about 50-50 CofC/non CofC.  There was such a spirit of humility among presenters and participants that by the end of the week we experienced a significant bond of brotherly fellowship.

One main deficiency in the program was the lack of women in the workshop.  Mustapha says that is generally true in a lot of church programs in west Africa, something that we need to seek to overcome.

Yesterday, Arnold Dzah, the Ghanaian missionary here, director of the Bible School and our host for the workshop, took us out to a rural church 120 kms from Dakar.   Peter Ofori, missionary from Mali preached and the rest of us shared parts of the worship program.  There are seven churches of Christ that have been planted over the past 20+ years; the one we visited is the only one with a building besides the church in Dakar.  The assembly yesterday consisted of maybe ten adults and 90-95 children and teenagers.  But since most churches do not have their own buildings maybe they will be better set for a movement of house churches ...

We arrived in Cotonou, Benin on February 11.  George Akpabli met us and took us to the Livingstone Restaurant that is popular with Western residents and visitors.  Then we stopped a local grocery to pick up some breakfast supplies before heading out to the Bible Training Center just north of the city of Cotonou.  The school has a very nice well-fitted out guesthouse where we stayed.  George and Joyce hosted us for the lunch and evening meals all week.  

By Tuesday morning, most of the preachers who were able to come had arrived from churches across Benin as well as at least one from Chad, Ivory Coast and Guinea.  It was clear that the disciple making movements approach to evangelism was a strange and somewhat difficult paradigm to accept.  We felt significant 'push-back from participants in the first two days of the training.  Questions often focused on how we would deal with various doctrinal issues.  To stay focused on the topic, we had to limit questions.

On the morning of the third day, my co-facilitators and I felt a spiritual burden and resistance to our message, calling for some deep, fervent time in prayer.  During that day, we felt a significant spiritual breakthrough with open minds and hearts. 

By our closing time on Friday, I was pleased to hear from the George, the Bible School director that he would like to adapt and incorporate the content of the training into the curriculum of the Bible School and to encourage its practice in the churches in Benin.  In his report, he stated that 'every participant in the workshop is going home a different person.'  Our prayer is that this kind of impact will be reflected in the people, churches and communities of Benin and all of West Africa.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Christian School for Nimule

Lauren Zumbrun has just taken on a role with East African Ministries as director to develop a Christian school in the town of Nimule near the border of South Sudan with Uganda.  The school itself is presently under construction and is expected to open in February, 2014.  In the interim, Lauren will be recruiting committed Christians in East Africa to be teachers and administrators in the school.  If you know of someone who would be interested to apply to work in this school, pass the word.

It is amazing how God works.  Nancy and I met with Lauren on Thursday.  As we talked and prayed, we remembered a 10-year-old prayer on Gordon's Hill near Nimule in July, 2003.  In our prayer we promised nothing, but we pledged to be advocates for Sudan and the town of Nimule.  In 2004, God provided a token of His answer to our prayers: Harding University students raised $17,000 to ship a 40 ft. container of medical and school supplies to Nimule.  Since then several missionaries have moved there.

... And now a Christian school!  I remember in one of the refugee camps we visited in 2003, an internally displaced leader who had never had an opportunity for much education, stood up in a meeting of SPLA generals and made a deeply moving statement of hope and desperation.  He said, "If you can find a woman who will come and teach me English, I will wash her dishes and clean her floors."  Wow!  Maybe that request will be fulfilled for his grand-children.  Praise God!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Multi-Ethnic Disciple Making Workshop

Last week Missions Resource Network hosted a disciple making training workshop.  About 30 people from Arizona to Tennessee participated and at least six different ethnic groups/nationalities living in the United States were represented at the workshop.

It is exciting when African disciplemakers begin training North Americans to be disciples who make disciples. Thank you, Mustapha Sandi for your disciple making training in various parts of Africa, Haiti and, last week, in the Dallas/Fort Worth, TX area of the United States. 

We are getting so many participants responding in gratitude and inspiration for the insights and passion you shared. Let's work together again soon.

Readers, let us know if you want to learn how to reach the lost in your community with the good news of Jesus.   Spread the word!!

Friday, August 17, 2012

August Trip to South Africa and Zambia

We had a fast trip to Africa this month that has been very positive in many ways.

1) The first two days we led a church leadership workshop at the Meadowlands church in Soweto.  Jay took the lead in teaching the content and I supplemented that by facilitating DBS's of relevant passages.  Attendance was relatively small as we were there Wednesday and Thursday and many that wanted to attend could not take two days off work.  Some of the young leaders were deeply impacted by the training and the way we presented it.  We met Napoleon Webster from Lesotho.  He loved the interactive nature of the DBS processes and principles and lobbied hard for us to do a training in Maseru, the capital of Lesotho.  Nancy and I stayed in the home of one of the elders, while Jay stayed with Dalton and Moreen Mushiinya, one of the deacons.  I will let Jay fill you in on his very positive conversations with Dalton.  There seems to be growing interest in MRN's 4-lab Church visioning process among some churches in the Johannesburg/Pretoria region of South Africa.  We had to hold back from too many commitments and raising expectations too high for what we could do in the short-term.

2)  On the Friday of the first week, we held a two-hour workshop with Nations University students and alumni at the Downtown church in Pretoria.

3) Saturday we led a 6-hour workshop for church leaders in Gauteng province and from Swaziland.  Jay did most of the training and again I facilitated a DBS at the beginning and at the end of the day.  We had very positive response from these leaders and requests for us to return for more training with them in Swaziland and Gauteng province.  Nancy facilitated some Bible lessons for a few women from Seeiso Street church and Mamalodi Church of Christ.

4) On Sunday, August 5th we flew to Livingstone, Zambia, my hometown.  We toured the Victoria Falls that afternoon and the next morning we had the opportunity to visit with Jacob Sianungu, visit his orphans' home and the site where he is preparing to construct a church building for a new church plant.  That afternoon we took a bus to Namwianga Mission at Kalomo where I grew up.  One of the missionaries put us up overnight and organized the Harding U.  HIZ (Harding in Zambia) bus to take us and a number of Zambia church leaders to Lusaka, the following day, where we checked in at the Gospel Outreach Center, venue of the 6th Africans Claiming Africa for Christ conference.  The theme was Extending the Frontiers of African Missions.  20 African nations were represented in addition to the U. S. and St. Vincent island in the Caribbean.  An exact count of participants was not announced, but we estimate close to 200 including about 12 Ghanaians, 35 Nigerians and 15 South Africans.  We were disappointed that so few Zambians participated other than those hosting us. 

5) I was very excited by conversations with a couple of brethren from Cape Town, South Africa who are eagerly getting involved in DMM and house churches.  I had good chats with representatives of Mu slim majority nations on the frontiers of Islamic Africa.  They all bought the Miraculous Movements book and requested training in disciple making.  Hopefully we can arrange this for early next year.  I also had good discussions with the 6-person delegation from Mozambique who are seeking help to develop a mission training school so they can send missionaries to all provinces of their nation.  I was able to video testimonies of three men whose stories I hope to publish in Volume Two of A Great Light Dawning: Profiles of Faith in Africa.   I had numerous individual conversations that reflect a growing spirit and vision for missions not just Africa-wide but globally.

6) I presented a keynote speech on New Frontiers of God's Mission in Africa on Saturday, August 11.  Jay has encouraged me to frame the main points as MRN blog posts.

7).  At my request, Dr. Evertt Huffard has offered to do special cut-rate tours of the Holy Land in the summers of 2013 and 2014 for African church leaders.  We advertised the tours at the ACAC conference.  Approximately 70 people signed up as interested in taking the tours.

8).  The ACAC continuation committee members present met and heard a request from Henry Huffard of World Christian Broadcasting to sign a letter WCB would compose requesting the Minister of Communications in Madagascar to approve the licensing of WCB to operate from Madagascar.  The committee agreed to sign the letter.  The committee also entertained offers from several African Nations to host the ACAC Conference in 2016.  It was decided that Senegal will host the conference in 2016, symbolically on the Frontiers of the gospel in Africa.  The Ghanaian leaders volunteered to assist in the hosting of the 2016 conference.  Senegal will be the first French-speaking country and the first Mu slim majority country to host an ACAC conference.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Powerful Redemptive Stories from Rwanda

It was great to have our Kinyarwanda language teacher, Felix Hagenimana, with us during the Christmas holidays in December. Among other functions, we invited him over to our offices at Missions Resource Network. While there he was willing for us to video tape his story of living through the genocide of 1994 in Rwanda. It is a very powerful story as is that of so many of our friends in Rwanda. No one who lived in the country at the time was unaffected by that national tragedy.

It is an important goal of mine to record for history some of these stories that show God's redemptive power in the aftermath of that dark season of Rwanda's history. God never abandoned the people of Rwanda though Satan wreaked terrible horror. These stories need to be told, heard and remembered. I have begun recording the stories. It will take at least two years for me to complete the project. If you are interested in what will be a book, please push me and hold me accountable to get it done.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Time to be Sick and a Time for Healing

As of last Saturday evening, we are now back in Kigali, Rwanda. Most of you have been following the details about my health, so I won't bore you by repeating all that.

Suffice it to say that I went to several clinics and saw 5 doctors here in Kigali, had quite a bit of testing at each one, with no clear diagnosis. Honestly, we began to wonder if we would be able to find the needed answers here and we made a pretty quick decision to get to what we thought would be better, more sophisticated health care, after realizing that I had dropped more than 20 lbs in about three weeks time. It turned out that the two hospitals we went to in South Africa were not able to find anything either. What they did do in their testing was to rule out some bad stuff like hepatitis, tuberculosis, cancer, bacterial infections and parasites.

I think it was one of the examples of God's unexpected will and timing that Duane Jenks and Don Box were able to change their flight schedule to stopover with us in Pretoria on their way to Durban to visit and comfort Brother Johnson Ngoyo who lost his wife and his oldest son on the same day. D and D were able to meet with some of the leaders of the Seeiso Street church and Duane did a class one evening on spiritual warfare. This really struck a chord and they want him back for a full seminar.

One of the great joys I experienced during my illness was the beauty of Christian fellowship. Numerous people came by to visit, to pray and to sing. One woman was baptized in the bathroom next to our bedroom. Afterward she came in to introduce herself to us and bid me good health.

On July 15, our 45th wedding anniversary, I felt a little better and we think that was the turning point. Each day thereafter, I felt a little stronger and was able to walk farther, gradually my appetite started returning. On Tuesday, July 19, I was finally able to see a specialist who declared me clear of anything they could identify, and closed my file. In the end, the specialist concluded that the culprit was some unidentifiable virus that had run its course.

On the following days we took time to see more of the kingdom works in the area. Brother Machona took us to see ministries in the Pretoria area, the Downtown church which also houses the Gospel Chariot Mission, which we had become acquainted with years ago. They now have two big specially designed trucks with trailers that they do teaching and preaching campaigns and distribute Christian literature in 11 southern African countries. This church also hosts students preparing for online courses with Nations University. On another day Machona and Tebego took us to one of the youth detention centers where some of the leaders of the Seeiso street do New Life Behavior and other training courses. One of the sisters who helps organize their short-term medical missions obvious has considerable means. The last afternoon we were there, she took us around to her congregation and showed the properties she is personally investing in for kingdom projects, one for the church, one for a women's center another for a Christian kindergarten and elementary school.

Tebogo is the main organizer for many of their mission activities and he is getting a lot of demand to speak at different churches who are interested in becoming involved in missions. I really feel like the Lord used our time in Pretoria to add to what Phil Jackson and I were able to do in March; to continue building relationships between MRN and the churches in the area for the future of missions.

Before I got sick I had been planning to go to SA to do a full DMM workshop in August. While there I offered to do a workshop with them and they are eager for more training, but August happens to be a very busy month for them and they were not sure how they could work it in. They were glad I suggested that Cephas Kwaambiliwa could go with me to co-facilitate the workshop. Cephas is a Congolese brother who lives in Kigali and has growing DMM movements in Rwanda and in Congo.

Overall, aside from illness, I don't think I could a have planned a better way to get to know these brethren on a broader and deeper level. Since I was given no treatment other than rehydration medicines and vitamins, I can only praise God for His healing of my body. I am eating better and gaining some weight, though hopefully not too much. I do have a ways to go to get my strength back and still need to rest some during the day. Thanks so much for your prayers throughout the past month.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sowing Seeds in South Sudan

For more than a year some of my Rwandan colleagues have been urging me to organize a mission trip to South Sudan. In June, we made the trip by bus from Rwanda to Juba, South Sudan, with a one-day stopover in Uganda where we were hosted by the Kampala Church of Christ. Besides the three of us from Rwanda, we were joined by a brother from DR Congo, one from Kenya, and a brother and sister from South Africa.

One of our purposes on this trip was scouting, to evaluate our impressions of what the needs are, how receptive the people are to the gospel, how open and cooperative the government would be to outsiders coming to serve there, etc. Our evaluation was at a high level in all these areas. We went to sow some seeds in various ways, but maybe the most significant were the seeds sown in our own hearts: a greater passion to serve the people and share the good news.

We were graciously hosted by a Ghanaian missionary couple, Isaac and Janet Adotey, as well as Peter Ladu, a Sudanese brother, who provided opportunities for us to bless the two young churches they are working with. We did small construction projects to improve their church facilities as well as a local community health clinic. Several home Bible studies led to at least 5 people accepting Christ as their savior and being baptized. Our overall impression of the openness of the country to outsider assistance might be summed up in the expression at least two officials said to us, ‘We want friends!”

Friday, June 03, 2011

Hymn and Literary Tour of England and Scotland

On our way back to Africa in May, we were so happy to be able to join Dr. Jerry Rushford and his group of 35 or so, in a Literary and Hymn Tour of England, Wales and Scotland. This was an inspiring 12 days of singing (225 hymns!) and experiencing the very places where the literary greats of times past and our hymn writers lived and left their mark upon our culture. We felt renewed and gained a deeper appreciation of our heritage, while enjoying fellowship with new and old friends. What a blessing! So grateful to friends and family (Sam’s sister and brother in law) who made it possible for us to enjoy this very special once in a life-time holiday. Can you imagine singing ‘Amazing Grace’ in the church where the composer, John Newton, former slaver turned Christian, wrote it and served as curate of Olney church?

Sam: I was greatly blessed to have been a part of this tour. At times was overwhelmed by the art and architecture, the sheer immensity of scale of the old churches of England and Scotland, not to speak of the equally towering faith exemplified in the lives of the adherents of the Christian religion in this history. But this tour left its mark on me in another, more troubling way.

I can't help but consider the massive amounts human creativity, physical labor and time (250 years to build York Minster) that were invested in the construction and maintenance of these huge churches, not to mention the monetary costs invested in places where so many thousands have come to meet God, when the Apostle Paul said that God does not dwell in temples made with hands of men. Many of these great churches have become monuments to a waning faith in England and Scotland. Worse yet, many are being turned into tourist spots, restaurants and other businesses.

But what bothers me more than anything about all this is what was NOT DONE because the church historically from about the 5th century A. D. onward became inward-focused and building-focused, at the expense of being outward-focused; going to the church instead of obeying Christ's command to go to the world. Except for a few, a very few who 'swam against the tide' and made a small impact here or there, more than 1000 years was wasted in withdrawing from the world rather than taking the gospel to the lost. Where would we be If we had focused on Christ's commands? Would we have completed the task of making disciples of all nations? Would Christ have returned to take us home? It's hard to say. But we can say, it is time to mobilize the church on a grand scale to make up for lost time and to get the job done!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Relationship-building with Seeiso Street Church

On March 23, I flew out on my way to Johannesburg, South Africa to make some connections with the Seeiso Street church near Pretoria. From Kigali, Rwanda, on Ethiopia Airlines, that means flying Northeast to travel South. I flew to Addis Ababa and spent the evening with Alemayehu, a former student of mine at the Nairobi Great Commission School in Nairobi, Kenya, and Moges, a roving evangelist among the approximately 1000 churches of Christ throughout Ethiopia. These two brothers met my flight and took me out to dinner at a touristy type restaurant. I enjoyed the food and fellowship, but the music and floor show was rather loud and we couldn't really carry on a conversation.

After dinner they took me back to the Church of Christ mission station in the Makanisa suburb of the city. They helped me settle into a room in the guesthouse and stayed for a few minutes. It seemed like the old days except that we didn't have time to really discuss how the church was doing, growing and maturing. I was listening for a need that I might be able to meet or find someone else who could, but I didn't hear of one. Alemayehu said the mission driver would come early and take me back to the airport. It was a quick stop and I was sorry that I would not get to meet the families of the brothers this time. Hope to see these brothers at the Africans Claiming Africa for Christ conference in August, next year.

I arrived in Johannesburg in the early afternoon and who was there to meet me but my friend, Machona Monyamane, the pulpit minister of the Seeiso Street church in Atteridgeville, just west of Pretoria. Machona showed me some of the city and then took me to a mall where we took some refreshment, then later dropped me at the home of one of the widows of the church. That evening several of the brothers came by and we had a nice visit over a delicious meal. I heard from these brothers what an impact the Pepperdine Bible lectures had made on the outlook and ministry of both Tebogo and Machona. It was obvious they had a much bigger agenda for the trip to the U. S. last year than just presenting a class at the Pepperdine lectures. They went to every class they could, networked with as many people as they could and attended the all the evening events they could. Machona told me that he even interviewed the shuttle bus drivers as they drove him up the Malibu hills. The result was that they claimed there time at Pepperdine gave them a global view of the church. They said their Bible study, their preaching, their approach to evangelism and their view of the church as a whole had been all impacted by their experience that week in May. They were excited about the possibility of working with Missions Resource Network to build partnerships that could improve and expand their mission outreach. I went to bed that evening excited by what the next few days might bring.

Machona picked me up early and we drove back to the airport to pick up Phil Jackson, MRN's facilitator for European church planting, who was coming in to work with me in a short introductory workshop on disciple making. Phil had never been to Africa and I had lived here most of my life. What Phil experienced that week was not your typical African experience. We found that this church had a membership of 700 plus and 50+ year history. It was a church that had a significant influence in the area and had planted several other congregations. They were involved in international missions in Asia and Africa, making numerous short-term mission trips to various locations every year. For it's size, this in itself went way beyond anything that I knew of in any congregation in Africa or the world for that matter.

The Saturday morning of our visit coincided with a monthly prayer breakfast when the leaders of area congregations came together for fellowship and prayer. The breakfast this month was hosted by Seeiso Street where 40-50 people met. Tebogo Ramatsui, the missions minister of the church and grandson of the man who planted the church in 1958, took about 30 minutes to share some of the ministries and missions the church was involved in and some of their vision and plans for local and foreign missions.

Our main goal in meeting with this church on this trip was not so much to impart something to them; we hoped the time would come for that. Rather it was to get to know them, learn from them and begin building a relationship with them that we hoped would blossom into investment in the kingdom of God in Africa. And learn we did. We met the leaders of several sister congregations, were taken to a cultural park to learn about the various indigenous cultures of South Africa. We were even treated to an international football (soccer) match between Eygpt and South Africa, which South Africa won 1-0 for the first time ever against Egypt. Phil and I were hosted in the country home of a gracious couple, Kenny and Jemina Mookeng and their family. Their little detached guesthouse with two bedrooms was a great fit for us. Then on Sunday evening, our last night there, the Mookengs hosted a farewell dinner for Phil and me, inviting many of the leaders and their wives to be with us. It was such a sweet experience.

Privately, Phil and I were blown away by our time with the Seeiso Street church. Phil was already begging to come back with me in the future. Frankly, in all my years in Africa, I had never been hosted like this before. But it was the passion and the vision that seeped out all over us at this church that impacted us the most. It was, in our MRN parlance of the day, a ready-made, God-prepared Global Launch Site for missions in Africa and globally. I couldn't wait until I could return and bring Nancy with me. Little did I know how and when that would happen ...

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...