The minaret atop the mosque in Muhanga
broadcasts the call to prayer
The drummer gives the call for
prayer and praise
Sleeping arrangements in Muhanga
For the last two weeks (except for two nights in Kigali) Theophile and I have been sleeping in our tents in an open room connected to a local church building. Each morning we have been awakened around 5-5:30 by two sounds; the call to prayer from the Muslim mosque and the call to prayer and praise from the local churches.
This has been an interesting wake-up call and a reminder at the beginning of each day about the commission Jesus has given to His followers. Two worlds/two beliefs/two answers: one through religious activity seeks a place in heaven; the other through the death and resurrection of Jesus is invited into an eternal relationship with the Father. While the contrast is great, our mission, motive, and model has always been the same; love your neighbor as yourself.
By 6 AM worshipers have gathered for prayer and praise
For the last three days Theophile and I have been studying "Three Lessons on the Holy Spirit" with nineteen Pentecostal church leaders in the South Province. It has been a joy to study sections of Acts and passages on the gifts of the Holy Spirit (especially 1 Corinthians 12-14) with these leaders. In the midst of many questions, it has been great to pause and consider what the Bible actually says and what it doesn't say. We all came away with a stronger awareness of Paul's emphasis on love, unity and diversity, edification of the believers, and order in the worship service. I believe these twenty church leaders are stronger students of God's Word because of our three days together.
Women of Hope
A group of women (most work in the government) had a growing concern for the needs in their district (like a county) which the government could not address. A few met initially and now they have grown to over sixty women. They call the group "Women of Hope." They have concerns for the women, children, marriages, and the churches in their district.
The "Women of Hope" desire healthy homes and churches for Rwanda. So the president asked Rwanda Challenge to come and teach for two days on "The Five Purposes of the Church." Most Rwandan churches have a shallow understanding of worship, evangelism, biblical community, discipleship, and ministry. On the last day they were encouraged and asked us to come back and teach them the "Three Lessons on the Holy Spirit." After the closing, four remained behind, including the mayor, and shared in greater depth issues in the homes and churches and how they are making a difference. It was a growing time for me in understanding Rwanda. These women not only have influence in the government, but they are committed followers of Jesus who have influence in their local churches. I pray that God will use the "Women of Hope" and Rwanda Challenge to make a difference in Rwanda for His glory.
Nineteen of the "Women of Hope"
My First Baptisms in Rwanda
Theophile and Frank baptizing two new sisters into Christ.
Most churches in Rwanda practice immersion. In those that do not, I am told that some people will request to be immersed. The first exploratory group, 2008, from Manchester Christian Church witnessed baptisms with a church in the South Province, but I was not on that trip. I assumed that the day would come when I would be able to share with the Church in Rwanda this joyful event. This past Sunday Theophile and I had the privilege of baptizing eight Rwandans into Christ. This was a fairly new church and their first baptisms. We praise God for these new brothers and sisters in Christ.
Shortly after I arrived in Rwanda on January 3, I received my official invitation to the "Introduction and giving Dowry in Kimironko" on January 25th and "Religious Wedding ceremony" on February 1st in Kenya. Wow!
Kenya was not a possibility and Theophile and I thought we would be in Muhanga teaching on January 25th. It turned out that Rwanda has "Community Day" (Rwandans do a community project in their neighborhood) on the last Saturday of every month. So, we were available. Previously, I had attended a Rwandan wedding -- only to discover I was in the wedding. For the dowry ceremony I was expecting a something short where the groom's family presents the dowry to the bride's family. We arrived at the house about twelve noon. Some relatives were there at the house. I was handed a plate of food. Some people came, some people went. Then it was time to leave. Nothing had happened.
We walked down the street to another location where the yard was prepared with flowers, tents, several hundred chairs, etc. Soon Theophile and I were seated. It began to rain with wind. Most people under the tents remained in their seats. The rained stopped. Things were cleaned up. The ceremony began. I discovered most of the guest related to the bride and groom and were seated across from each other (several hundred people - talk about a family reunion). A representative from the groom's side began to communicate with a representative from the bride's side. They went back and forth for about an hour until it was decided that a young man on the groom's side could marry a female from the other family. An old woman was offered. I discovered this was the normal process for the giving of the dowry. It was finally agreed that the couple could marry.
Next, they went through another process of deciding how many cows would be offered to the bride's family. I'm thinking, with five daughters I would be a rich man in Rwanda. Once they decided on the cows, there was another song and dance, literally, about naming the cows. Once the cows were named, the agreement was finalized and we all (several hundred people) ate a meal together. I was wondering how the bride's family was able to pay for all of this. Theophile explained that everyone there had given a monetary gift to the bride's parents.
It was about 6 PM now and Theophile and I needed to leave. Most people remained for another or so.
Now, that was a cultural experience! The actual wedding will take place next weekend.
Once the two families agreed, the bride joined the groom with their attendants.
Psalm 105 (see 1 Chronicles 16:8-11)
1 Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
Let the whole world know what he has done.
2 Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.
Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.
3 Exult in his holy name;
rejoice, you who worship the Lord.
4 Search for the Lord and for his strength;
continually seek him.
New Living Translation
Desire gives Frank a gift for the teaching that he says,
"...has changed my life, my home, and my ministry."
The names have been changed to... (because I don't know the names).
Mathias sells brochettes (cooked meat on a stick - delicious I might add).
Joshua sold Mathias pork for 50,000 RWFs (about $100 six years ago). Many Rwandans do not make this much money in three months. Mathias thought he gave 50,000 RWFs to Joshua, but when Mathias returned home he found 10,000 in his pocket. He did not tell Joshua about this money.
Joshua did not count the money, because he trusted Mathias. Joshua went home and gave the money to his wife and said keep this for me. When it was time to spend the money Joshua asked his wife to bring it to him. When she gave him the money, he asked, "Why have you taken 10,000." She said, "No. This is the amount you gave me." Joshua said, "No. I gave you 50,000. Why have you stolen the money?" This became a big problem between Joshua and his wife. This continued for six years.
Desire's Testimony of the Mighty Deeds of God:
In February of 2012, RC taught the "Equip a Church Leader" group "Three Lessons on the Holy Spirit: The Gift, The Gifts, and The Fruit of the Holy Spirit." Desire (in the EACL group) was recently teaching the Fruit of the Spirit in the local church where he serves. Mathias heard this teaching about "the acts of the sinful nature" and "the fruit of the Spirit" in Galatians 5. Desire called his people to repentance and asked them to make some application of this teaching in the next seven days. Mathias believed his sin was a hindrance to the fruit of the Spirit growing in his life.
Mathias repented and went to Joshua. He told Joshua and his wife the story of the 10,000 RWFs. Then he asked them (Joshua and his wife are Roman Catholics) if they would come to his church the next Sunday so he could confess his sin and give back the money publicly. The next Sunday came and Mathias told the story to the congregation. He gave the money to Desire and Desire gave the money to the couple. People cried and praised God. Joshua asked his wife to forgive him. "For six years I have believed you had stolen this money and I could not trust you. I ask you to forgive me." And his wife knew that for six years her husband did not trust her. But she also knew she had given him all the money. They cried and hugged. There was great praise and rejoicing for what God had done.
Let us tell our children of the mighty deeds of God; both in the past and what He is doing today.
Theophile and Manasse with Zachariah's Kinyarwanda Study Bible
Theophile's father, Zachariah, passed away on the night I arrived in Rwanda on my last trip (September 2013). It was my first Rwandan funeral. Zachariah had participated on a number of occasions in the RC teaching and we were able to present him with a Kinyarwanda Study Bible in 2012. Yesterday, Manasse (one of the church leaders in the group this week) approached Theophile and showed him Zachariah's Bible. Zachariah had passed his KSB on to this younger church leader prior to his death.
God's Word is a precious gift to receive in life and a precious gift to pass along in one's death.
I left New Hampshire on January 1 and am scheduled to return on February 3 (thirty-four days). January 18 will officially begin the second half of this trip.
Today, we are studying with our third of seven groups. This is only the second time we have focused on the leadership of one local church. Theophile and Gerard have ministry leaders over a variety of ministries in the Zarephath Church. This is rare in Rwanda as most ministry is done by only a few people in the local church. These leaders are excited about the Church. They are only asking, “Equip us for ministry.” It is a joy to study with them and dream with them concerning the growth and health of God’s Church.
Theophile equips ministry leaders in the Zarephath Church.
Housing in the refugee camp.
Some of the children have no parents or relatives to take care of them.
Today is my last day in Rwanda. As I anticipate boarding the airplane to head back to the U.S.A. later this evening, I cannot help but to reflect upon the things I have witnessed and been a part of over the past two weeks. One thing is sure. Contentment is not found in what one possesses materially, but in what one possesses spiritually.
For the vast majority of people in my home country, the conditions in which people live here in Rwanda would be considered unbearable. I can remember as a child going to my grandparent’s home in the country where there was no indoor plumbing. Taking a bath in water heated in a wash tub or a shower in rain water collected in a barrel on the roof of the shower building located outside were a part of life there. An outhouse completed the facilities. The first church building I remember had no indoor facilities either, but rather an outhouse. Those conditions were better, though, than the ones existing here.
As an American I have been so blessed to see the great improvements in basic comforts and conveniences of life. I now live in a home with 2 ½ baths, heated showers, and central heat and air. We have doors at the entrance of our house, not a curtain. I attend a church where the building has so many of the modern conveniences such as a full kitchen with industrial appliances, comfortable chairs and pews, and a great lighting system and sound system.
But, spiritually, am I any better off than my brothers and sisters here in Rwanda as well as the Congolese refugees I walked among this past week? There are children roaming the refugee camp who have lost both father and mother and really live on their own. Children are running through raw sewage seeping down the hillside. Here adults do not have good health care nor an understanding of some basic things they can do for better hygiene. In spite of all this, I am not sure that I am spiritually better off. The hope that I have in Christ is the same hope they have. And, to be honest, sometimes the conveniences and even luxuries I have can cause me to take my mind off the hope of things eternal.
John 16:33 records the words of Jesus when he said, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (NIV) The peace seen in these third world communities is amazing. The hope of Christians here, the celebration of God in worship, the hunger for the teaching of God’s word, and the friendship they offer can only exist because they have caught a glimpse of glory and live daily in the glory of Christ.
May I find contentment first and foremost in my knowledge of Christ and relationship with him. This is my prayer for you as well.
In poverty, one church member offers ears of corn.
Today Gene, Theophile and I are concluding “Three Lessons on the Holy Spirit” with church leaders in the Nyabiheke Refugee Camp. We arrived on Saturday, Gene preached on Sunday, and we began teaching on Monday. When we began there was great confusion about the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. Over the last three days, these church leaders have been able to begin a distinction between the gift of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is a huge step forward for them to realize that every follower of Jesus has the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38, Romans 8:9). Next they discovered that the Holy Spirit gives gifts to every member in the Body of Christ (e.g. 1 Corinthians 12). Our discussion of the fruit of the Spirit and what it means to “walk in the Spirit” from Galatians 5, seemed to be especially helpful for them. They are leaving these three days with a greater understanding of what the Bible teaches about the Holy Spirit. But also, they are already discussing how to apply these teachings in their lives and the local church.
Gene, Theophile, and I are thankful that God would use us to build up His Church in the Nyabiheke Refugee Camp for His glory and honor.
Blessed to be able to serve His Church,