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A Full Week!

I apologize that I have not been able to post blog updates before now.  Our internet connection has been spotty, at best, sometimes down for hours at a time.  The schedule has also kept us very busy!  Here is an overview of the week:

We arrived Saturday in Rwanda after many hours of travel.  The best we were able to calculate, we had approximately a 51 hour journey.  How, you ask?  It started with an expected 12 hour layover in London – which was awesome.  We decided to leave the airport and enjoy our time in LONDON!  With only a few hours our team decided to go to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards.  (I had no idea how big a display this really is.  But it was very cool to be there in person to see it.)  Next, we decided to get fish and chips at a local pub, then head to Westminster Abbey and Big Ben.  It was a fun few hours.  However, this only partially explains our 51 hour trip.  Next, we also spent an unexpected 12 hours of delay in Nairobi, Kenya.  Other than being tired, it wasn’t so bad.  God allowed us to meet and get connected with some Christians (who were also delayed) with whom we had great fellowship.

On Sunday, there were 19 saved at the church were I was asked to preach.  It was a joy to start our trip in worship and fellowship with more than 1700 Rwandans.  Charles Warren, (Simplicity Board Chairman) pointed out during the service, “The Holy Spirit needs no interpreter.”

Monday, our team did some basic manual labor on the woodworking shop where orphan boys are learning the wood working trade.  We basically moved a large pile of dirt.  After working with some very old, “needing replacement” tools, Simplicity and another team member purchased four shovels and a pick.  When we brought the gift back the Rwandans were very happy.  (If we have to dig again, I’m sure we are going to be very happy as well!)

Tuesday through Friday, I taught the Pastor’s Conference on Simple Evangelism.  In some ways, this trip feels so different from others in the past.  How?  My focus while here is primarily ministry to pastors, rather than the lost.  Usually, I do a lot of evangelistic preaching and one-on-one evangelism.  But this week God has me spending most of my time serving the pastors.  I’ve enjoyed it a great deal and thank God for the blessing of training these men.

On Saturday, as we were trying to return to Kigali from a day on safari, our vehicle broke down.  As God would have it, we were only 300 feet from a repair shop!  However, we were not in a good location to catch a taxi, and I was due back in Kigali to preach on a radio broadcast at 8pm.  While waiting on some form of transportation, we soon found that we were surrounded by about 18 boys from the streets.   Seizing that opportunity, I pulled out my Evangecube and shared the gospel with the boys.  15 of the 18 prayed to receive Christ!

Following that, Emmanuel was able to secure us a taxi back into the city.  Again, according to the Father’s plan, the driver was a believer who had not intended to stop for gas at our location, but changed his mind at the last minute.  Because he did, he was able to take us into Kigali.  We were a few minutes late for the broadcast but they put me on the air as soon as we walked in the door, and I was still able to preach.

Our final Sunday in Rwanda, I preached at another large church, with about 800+ in attendance.  Once again, 19 people stood to receive Christ as Savior and Lord!  In addition, about half of those present made public recommitments of their lives to Christ.

Charles also preached on  Sunday, and there were 14 who made professions of faith.  An additional 12 or more women came to Christ through Charles’ interviews with widows through the week.

Tomorrow at 1:45 (4:45 am Pacific time), Charles and I will begin our journey home.  Once I get home I hope to send out more updates and information on our trip.  Thank you for your prayers on our behalf!

Simply Devoted,

Mike

Today, I had the opportunity to have coffee and lunch with an American missionary who has been serving here in Rwanda for the last five years.  We spent 4 and 1/2 hours together.  It was a blessing to visit and fellowship with this man.  And I found out that this missionary knows many pastors with whom I have worked with for years in the Northwest!

I shared with the American missionary about The Hope Video and the New Tribes missionary on our team, whom God is leading to bring the chronological storying method and materials to Rwanda.  Hearing this he responded, “Over the last week or so God has been putting on my heart to use the chronological material with those with whom I work here in Rwanda.”  He went on to explain that he already had 100 stories translated into the local language, Kenyarwanda.

It was exciting to see the sovereign hand of God already at work in this, and the awesome way God is going before us, beyond what I could have imagined.  God is amazing.  He is bringing together a team of His choosing for the work in Rwanda.

One of our mission team members, Steve Emerson,  has stated a couple of times during our mission that God must love Sundays.  Why that day more than any other?  Because as Christians all around the world worship God on Sunday, it results – from God’s perspective – in 24 hours of praise, confession, renewal of the Saints and salvation of the lost.

Our Sundays here have definitely been amazing.  As our team entered  church today, services had already begun in our portion of this 24 hour global worship.  Approximately 475-500 Rwandans were singing and celebrating Christ the Lord.  Twenty minutes later, as the choirs continued to sing, the crowd had grown to 950 people.  A little less than half of these were guests from other churches who had come to participate in this service.  My team members and I could sense the presence of God in our midst.  After I preached the message on forgiveness, there were 15 who came to the altar to profess their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and approximately 400 – 500 believers who confessed the sin of revenge and unforgiveness.  Following their time of confession, the Senior Pastor, my translator, Pastor Emmanuel, and I prayed and asked God to heal the  wounds and the brokenness of those who had been emotionally wounded.

Through the morning, I was also blessed with the opportunity to help lead and serve Communion (the Lord’s Supper) and pray for a beautiful baby girl during a baby dedication.  In addition, several individuals were confirmed for membership, including some in the choir.  These individuals who had requested membership presented their testimonies and then their witness in the community was evaluated through the testimony of others.  After the time of evaluation, if their faith was true and witness was good, they were accepted into the choir.   Four couples were presented to the church who were entering engagement and wanted the blessing and support of the church as they moved toward marriage.

I share these details because I was encouraged to see this church recognize such things as serious matters within the family of God.  I believe that in the U.S. our churches have become too casual about these matters.  In Rwanda, in this church, accountability within the body of Christ has great value; that was refreshing to see.

In the evening, I was asked to speak at the Disciples of Jesus Assembly, a small mission church led by a pastor who has worked as a translator for us.  What a blessing to worship with them tonight!  About 35-40 Christians gathered for worship.  Steve Emerson was asked to share a testimony. He shared two stories that emphasized the fact that there are times when God allows suffering, difficulty, even the sinful actions of others into our lives, and we don’t understand why.  Steve’s stories completely set things up for me to preach again on forgiveness and call those who had been wounded by others to trust God and forgive, even if they do not know why God would allow evil things to impact their lives.  During the response time more than 21 people confessed their sin of returning evil for evil.  After a time of prayer for confession, our team and the pastors from the church gathered around those individuals, asking for God to heal the wounds caused by the evil done against them.

An amazing day!  And as our day of worship ended here in Rwanda, many in the U.S., including my wife and kids, were heading out the door for church to begin their portion of the 24 hours of global worship — on the day God must really love!

So there we were, our safari van parked parallel to the hippo filled Ihema Lake in Rwanda, about 30 yards from the water’s edge.   I was sitting inside the van, on the driver’s side, farther from the water.  Three people from our team had decided to get out to take pictures of the hippos, along with our guide.

Now, I must say, I’ve probably read one too many articles about Africans being killed by hippos at the edge of a lake, because I was not feeling comfortable with anyone getting out of the van.   I decided to stay where it was safe (at least until I had adequate time to assess the situation and feel a little more secure about getting out.)

However, sitting in the van made it difficult to take video and pictures through the windows.  Therefore, my new mission team friend, John, and I decided to sit in the open windows of the driver’s side with our backs to the bush.  This allowed us to look over the top of the van to shoot video and pictures.  This was working well, I thought.  I felt safe, but I was also in a great position to get pictures of the hippos.

Suddenly, however, in my peripheral vision, I caught a glimpse of a large animal JUMPING through the driver’s open window into his lap!  The driver instinctively — out of pure adrenaline rush — tossed the animal right back out and onto the ground.  It was then that I realized it was a large baboon.  When the baboon hit the ground, he looked directly at John and me,  searching for another entrance into the van, namely the windows we happened to be sitting in.  In less than a second, John and I were back inside the van, closing those windows.  Meanwhile our three team members viewing the lake, had no idea what was going on.  We quickly yelled at them to get back in the vehicle.

Our guide, a 5’2″ Rwandan woman (who, by the way, had nothing with which to defend us  except her two-way radio),  Pastor Emmanuel (our team leader), and Steve (father of our 19 year old photographer) were still not sure what all the crazy commotion in the van was about.   They had yet to see that the baboon had circled around the back of the van to approach the open door on their side.  Shelli, the photographer, was farthest from the van, still snapping shots of the hippos.

I could see Steve clearly from where I was, and I knew what he, as a father, was thinking as he became aware of the situation.  He was ready to do whatever he had to do to get his girl into the van.  So, he did just that; he picked up a red and white ice chest off the ground, and in a firm defensive stance, held it in front of him like a shield — with the absolute commitment to use it, as necessary, against that baboon.

By this time, everyone outside the van was finally aware of the baboon and making their way inside, except for Steve who stood with ice chest raised, ready for battle.   Thankfully, there was no need for a demonstration of man vs. baboon on this trip.  Shelli was safely ensconced into the vehicle, quickly followed by her dad… and the baboon sat and pouted, outside of our safari van.

The Need is Great

Today, I met with 14 senior pastors from Kigali.  I was asked to share about Simplicity Ministries and what kinds of conference topics I could provide for pastor training here in Kigali.  I again had the opportunity to share about The Hope Video and provide a brief overview of the Simple Evangelism material.  There is a great need and a great desire from the pastors here for theological training, leadership training, and English language training.  I’m excited to see what the Lord Lord has planned for these pastors, their churches, and the future of Rwanda.

God also gave me the privilege to speak to a Christian student group at a local university.  This was a great blessing.

As this day draws to an end, the rain has begun to fall.  It is refreshing.  The temperature has dropped by about 10 degrees and the rain has settled the dust.  The lightning is spectacular above the many hills.  I should sleep well tonight.

Tomorrow will be a day off to enjoy the beauty of Rwanda on Safari.  What a blessing to gaze upon the glory of God revealed in His creation.

Today, I journeyed to a chapel (or mission church) of Gakinjiro (the church where I preached on Sunday).  There were 275-300 people gathered and more than half had been praying and fasting before the service.  I have truly been humbled by the commitment of the Rwandans we’ve been with.  How I wish for this kind of commitment to prayer, fasting, and desire for God among the American church.

The message focus was again on forgiveness.  18 stood to receive Christ as Savior and Lord during the invitation and an estimated 100 to 150 confessed their sin of returning evil for the evil done to them.  Then they asked for prayer that God would heal the wounds that others’ sin had caused.

After the service on the way to lunch, we had a flat tire.  As the Rwandans say, “no problem.”  We fixed the flat and were on our way in a short time.

This afternoon we visited some of those orphaned and widowed after the genocide.  One of the reasons for our partnership with Evangelical Revival Ministries (ERM) here in Rwanda is their unique ministry approach to the tragedy caused by the genocide.  In addition to working with churches to share the gospel and train pastors, ERM pairs orphans with widows to create new family units.  These individuals are sponsored by donors (mostly from the US).  Many of these are older children or teenagers.

Our final ministry opportunity today was sharing resource information about The Hope Video with 102 students at a Bible training institute.  The Hope Video is intended to provide a way for pastors to present an overview of God’s story from Genesis to the birth of the church in both evangelistic and discipleship settings.  The resource will likely be used in conjunction with the chronological Bible story lessons created by New Tribes.  A missionary from New Tribes is also partnering with ERM and is here introducing that material as well.  I’m excited to see what God is going to do through these materials here in Rwanda.

Our day ended pushing a Land Rover.  After sharing with the bible students, our Land Rover would not start.  Fortunately, it has a standard transmission, so we pushed and “jump started” the vehicle.  It was a typical missionary day, with a little bit of everything:  Gospel preached, people saved, Christians renewed, leaders encouraged, flat tire changed and jump starting your Land Rover.

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