Thursday, July 19, 2012

Faith leads from a tent in the middle of nowhere to a beautiful setting.

Thursday, July 19, 2012
Our first of three days conference at the Good Shepherd Church in Kigali, Rwanda began today.  This church is especially dear to me, as my dear friends, Simon and Kedress, began this church from “scratch” shortly after the end of the genocide.  God gave them this piece of property, which at the time was in the middle of nowhere, and Simon put a large tent on it.  For years they met in that tent—cold on cold days and very hot on warm days!  Now this property is in one of the most exclusive areas of Kigali, surrounded by expensive homes, nice roads, and a beautiful setting.  And after many years of praying, and great faith on Simon’s part, they are finally in their permanent church building.  It is not totally finished, but it is good enough to meet in it.

 The Rwandan women are much more reserved than Kenyan women when you speak to them.  They don’t offer a lot of verbal or visual response to the message.  But they are far more animated when they sing – again with lots of dancing.  They really love to dance—women and men (but not together!).  However, my interpreter, Jacqueline, made sure I understood that even though they may not appear to be responding, they are taking it in and really listening.  I believe that to be true.

 About 60 of the more than 300 women who attended today are sleeping at the church tonight.  They have come from far and this is the only way they could attend.  So, Kedress and others are at the church now to make sure they have food to eat and mats to sleep on.  Can you imagine?  But Kedress assured me she loves to do this, and besides—it’s the Rwandan way!  They are way ahead of us when it comes to hospitality.

I hope to get better pictures tomorrow.  Please continue to pray.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dance Like No One's Watching

The women gathered from several churches to attend today's conference.
Today is the first day of ministry in Rwanda, and we traveled about 50 miles out of Kigali, the capital, to a small town where a sister church is located.  The women gathered there from several churches in the area for this day of conference, and I challenged them to “grow up” in Christ by faithfully reading their Bibles. We talked about how to pray scripture and make it alive in our lives. For many it’s a new idea—to read your Bible and pray daily—even for some of the pastors who were there.  They were enthusiastic in their response.  I pray it will bear much fruit.

Dancing with Praise
Rwandan women worship somewhat differently from Kenyan women.  For one thing, they LOVE to dance and they dance with great energy.  Their songs are quite different, but their enthusiasm is similar.

My host and hostess for this week are Simon and Kedress Nzaramakinga, long-time friends who I met in Kenya where they lived for many years as refugees from Rwanda.  After the genocide Simon returned to start several churches and begin the difficult job of forgiveness and reconciliation.  Rwanda is an amazing country.  Their President is a man of integrity and his leadership is helping them to grow very fast.  Their infrastructure is amazingly up-to-date.

Bible Drills
In the picture to the left, I taught the women what a Bible drill is and encouraged them to teach their children, so they can learn how to use their Bibles.  Their were four women who volunteered for the Bible drill.  (I'm the very white one.  I smiled at a toddler little girl and she cried and ran away!)  Tomorrow we begin a three-day conference here at the Good Shepherd Church in Kigali, and then I speak to the congregation on Sunday.  Your prayers are again needed and appreciated.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Wisdom from Proverbs

The book of Proverbs is the best management and employee relations book ever written. Let's look at Proverbs 22:10.  It says, "Drive out the mocker and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended."

A mocker on the job is the person who makes fun of others, who ridicules people and organizations, who is arrogant and causes problems seemingly on purpose.  When there's a mocker in the group, the work environment can be pretty miserable.

Does that mean that a manager needs to get rid of an employee who fits this description? It may sound cruel, but a person who is intent on offending others - and some people are - can have very detrimental effects on an organization. 

Of course, as Christians, we still must care about people regardless of how unlovable they are.  And though we can never change people, the Holy Spirit can, so we shouldn't give up praying for them.  But that doesn't mean we allow them to ruin the working environment for everyone else.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Do you know how to pray with an Eternal Perspective?

The group picture from Nairobi

Our three day conference here in Nairobi ended Saturday afternoon, and once again there was evidence that the teaching is reaching their hearts and minds and making a difference.  Most of the women who attend this conference are mature Christians and many have been with us for several years.  So, it’s good to reconnect with them. One young woman said that this was her third year to attend, and the conferences have completely changed her life by showing her who she is in Christ.  That's very encouraging to hear.

This year I emphasized the need for our own spiritual growth, and shared some teaching on the prayers of Paul, and how that should influence the way we pray.  This was a totally new teaching to them, and they really grasped the importance of praying with an eternal perspective.  These women know how to pray, but much of their praying is focused on everyday needs—of which there are many.  Paul’s prayers teach us to focus more on what will matter for eternity, and they caught that.

Elsy, my dear friend and the chair of the Nairobi committee.
Tomorrow I travel to Kigali, Rwanda for five days of teaching there, and then home on the 24th.  Your prayers for my time in Kigali are much needed; a very different audience there with tons of “baggage” from the genocide.  I pray I will bring them some hope and encouragement.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Importance of Digging Deep in God's Word

We completed the first day of our conference here in Nairobi, held at International Leadership University (formerly Nairobi International School of Theology). Our theme for this three day event is Digging Deep, Growing Strong, Reaching Wide. We had about 100 women in attendance, and while the number was small, the interest and participation was very strong. I've been teaching this conference for several years, and some of the women who have attended all of them thought that this morning's sessions were the most powerful and helpful of all. Praise to the Lord. I taught on the importance of digging deep in God's Word for ourselves, giving examples of how to read the Word for all it's worth, and then focused on the prayers of Paul. I believe God used it to help the women see new areas of growth in their own lives. Most of these women are leaders in their churches, and they will take these teachings back and multiply them many times.

I look forward to the next two days with these loving women who are so open to hear and learn and grow. They challenge me.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Looking for two good teachers

Last Friday, was the final day of seminars for the women in the Tabitha Bible studies, and it was in the poorest part of the surrounding countryside.  You can tell by the pictures that the church was a primitive-type structure, and it was small.  And these women truly have little to nothing that they can call their own.

Before we arrived at the church, we were obligated—by African culture—to visit the public school next door.  Many of the children had never seen a white person, so we were an “event.”  They welcomed us into their truly insufficient school house, gave us chai and bread, and then presented Linda with a written request for funds to help them hire two more badly-needed teachers.  Linda said this was all pre-arranged, as the word had spread that we would be at the church next door.  Linda and her husband are constantly asked for help from many, many people—as are the other doctors/workers here at Tenwek Hospital.

Once we were able to pry ourselves away from the school children, we went next door, where the women were already filling the church and singing.  They brought in benches from the school, put them in the aisle and filled every inch of the church, so that I hardly had room to stand to speak. For the afternoon session we moved everyone outside, where they sat in the sun while I spoke.  We estimate about 350 women were there, and not one of them showed any sign of impatience or irritation at the crowded conditions, including crying babies.

But in the midst of what might appear to be moments of chaos, they listened intently to the message and responded with enthusiasm.
There is so much more I could tell you, but it will have to wait!  I go now to a seminar here on the campus of Tenwek, where I will be speaking three times.  I had hoped without a translator, but I learned last night that they want to use a translator so some women who don’t speak English can attend.  Flexibility is an absolute must here.

Thanks for your prayers.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

No room in church?

Our fourth seminar was held in a town called Silibwet, which is near Bomet, so an easy commute.  This was our largest group yet—close to 600.  By the time everyone arrived, there was not one space left in the church, and at least 50 women were sitting on the lawn trying to listen.  Many walked two and three hours to get there.  But they never complain.  They are so happy to have an opportunity to get together with their sisters in Christ, and the fellowship they share is really wonderful to observe.

In this group almost all of them had earned their Bibles, and they quote their verses heartily.  Not only do they memorize 16 verses to earn a Bible, they are encouraged to memorize one verse every two weeks of Bible study.  They are currently studying Joshua, and each day one of the groups has presented a drama from the stories in Joshua – mostly Joshua 9.  They LOVE to present dramas, and they can be very creative.

As I listened to them quoting so many verses today in unison, my heart was so touched.  I thought how difficult it seems to be to inspire Bible memorization in the States—and how lazy I can be about it as well.  Yet these women really love to do so.

There are so many stories that I could tell you about some of the women who have been in Tabitha since it’s beginning in 2006—how it has changed their lives.  Many of these women have husbands who are not believers, many alcoholics, and their lives are hard.  But they devote themselves to the Bible studies and it has given them courage and strength.

You will see them standing in line to get lunch—rice and beans.  They each were asked to bring their own dish and spoon, and then they sat on the lawns and enjoyed eating together.  The mid-day meal is usually their largest meal.

Thanks so much for your prayers.  We are praising God that already a generous gift has been given to buy some Bibles, but more is needed, so if God touches your heart with this opportunity, you can direct your gift through The Christian Working Woman.

God is good—all the time!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Walking four hours to attend church

Yesterday, Wednesday, was a very long day, with a long commute on some difficult roads, but at the end of the ride the women were already gathered, waiting for us, singing as we arrived.  With flower petals strewn along the pathway all the way to the church, they escorted us into our seats.  It is typical African hospitality, and it is lovely.

The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful here in “tea country.”  I tried to capture some of it in this photo, but it doesn’t do it justice.  If you can imagine, the women walked from the fartherest hill you can see in this picture – some walking four hours – to reach the church.

Each day the message I give is clearer, I trust, but yesterday it was sad to see that only about half of the 400 to 500 women there had Bibles.  Many have already memorized their scriptures and are awaiting their Bibles.  Others still have verses to recite.  Each Bible cost $8; they are very nice Bibles in their native language of Kipsigese.  But Tabitha Ministries is waiting for more funds to come in so these Bibles can be purchased.  There are a total of about 1000 women waiting on their Bibles.  You'll see some of the Bible study leaders pictured here.
If you would like to help Tabitha purchase these Bibles, you can donate money through The Christian Working Woman for that purpose.

Last night we had a Fourth of July celebration cookout here at Tenwek for us Americans, with hamburgers and all the trimmings.  It was very nice and quite delicious, in spite of the pouring rain that suddenly came down.

Today we expect one of our largest groups at Silibwet—which is a short drive.   I’m praying my message will stay fresh and truly touch lives.  Your prayers are much appreciated.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

When did you receive your first Bible?

Today, Tuesday, was another beautiful sunny day here, warm with no humidity, and we held our seminar in a little town called Goitabsilibwet, very near Bomet.  The church was less than a mile from the main road, so it made for an easy day.  Commuting to the churches is not always simple!

This seminar included seven or eight of the individual Bible studies of Tabitha, so the number attending was smaller, about 200.  It filled the “open-air” church and we had a blessed day.  Based on yesterday’s experience, I altered my messages a bit, with suggestions from Linda, and I believe I communicated more clearly today.  The women were open and attentive, as always, and at the end of my second message I asked for a commitment from them to spend daily time “feeding themselves” from God’s Word.  This was after demonstrating how to do that.  Most of the women made that commitment and we had a prayer of dedication.

Most of these women have earned their Bibles by memorizing the verses, and I asked how many of them had a Bible before the one they earned through Tabitha.  The great majority of them indicated that this was their first Bible.  Can you imagine getting your first Bible as an adult, and having to learn how to read it, how to apply it to your life?  I showed them ways to learn their Bible and to teach their children and young people.  I taught how keeping a journal can enrich their Bible reading.  Please pray that the ones who made the commitment to spend daily time in the Word will keep that promise, beginning tomorrow.

I look forward to another day tomorrow, with a much, much longer commute over almost impassable roads!  But at the end there will be several hundred women there, walking long distances for the seminar.  So how can I complain about a very bumpy, long ride?

A very rewarding 1st day in Bomet, Kenya

Our first event with the women of Tabitha Ministries was yesterday in a church at Kitoben, near Bomet.  Many of the 150 Bible study groups were present at this seminar.  The ride to the church was, as always, an adventure of its own, but Linda Spreigel, my host and the founder of Tabitha Ministries, is quite good at driving these impossible roads.  The countryside is beyond beautiful, and we arrived at the church after an hour or so.  Around 10:30 there were maybe a dozen women there.  By noon the church was totally packed with women sitting on the outside.  Our best estimate is 500 women crammed into a church built to hold maybe 200. 

The preliminaries are always lengthy, with many introductions and many welcoming speeches.  I began my first message, Growing Up in Christ, at about 12:30, with Peris translating for me.  We ended at 1:45, then lunch was served—rice and beans, cooked outside.  Each woman was advised to bring her own dish and spoon, and they enjoyed sitting outside and eating together.  It was a beautiful sunny day, about 75 degrees, I think.

After lunch I gave my second message, showing the women ways to read their Bible and pray scripture, and allow God’s Spirit to make them more and more like Jesus.  We gave each woman a notebook and pen for the purpose of journaling.  There were several pastors present from nearby churches, and they took it all in.  In fact, the lead pastor asked me to please come back and give the same message to the pastors in the area.  You see, many pastors have had no training at all, and they have never been taught some of the most basic disciplines of the Christian life.

 Most of the women had won a Bible in their language by memorizing 16 verses of Scripture, and they quoted the verses many times during the conference.  For most of them, it is the first Bible they have ever owned, and learning to read and apply what they read is a totally new idea to them.  But they are willing learners.

Almost every woman walked to this conference, and some walked for three to four hours, up and down hills and valleys.  I never cease to be amazed at their willingness to walk so far, many with babies on their backs.  The room was full of nursing babies and crying toddlers, but it’s part of the scene and you get used to it!

Linda is very excited at the results for the day, and has given me good ideas on how to improve it.  I arrived back where I’m staying at 6:00 – a very long day, but a very rewarding one. I look forward to another day of service today. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Tabitha Bible Study Conference Starts Today

I am scheduled to start teaching today, Monday through Friday, at five different churches in the area for the women in the Tabitha Bible studies in and around Bomet, Kenya.  The leadership team has made all the plans for these five days, and we were told to prepare for maybe as many as 2000 women in these five days.  Since I arrived that estimate has been increased substantially.  They are expecting 1000 more today and maybe 3500 all week.

Well, we’ll see what the week brings.  One thing about African women—they know how to “go with the flow” much better than we Americans do.  So, they will be undaunted by any surprises that we may face.  I do pray, however, that somehow they will be able to locate a PA system for us to use.  Most of these churches don’t have one and it has to be brought in.  The quality is poor, but at least they can hear.

I feel very unequal to the task of speaking to these women, with the cultural and communication barriers that are between us.  But the truth is, I am unequal to the task without these barriers, so I am relying on God’s Spirit—and the prayers of so many of you at home—to give me wisdom even as I speak, to know how to get the truth of God’s Word through with clarity.

I plan to send messages back each evening, with pictures so you can share this experience with me.  So, check us out each day and please do keep me in your prayers.  And pray for Peris, my interpreter, as in many ways her job is harder than mine!