Dear Friends and Family,
I am at the end of my one day in Rwanda. I flew here early this morning, arriving from Kenya shortly past 8am. My only agenda item on the day was a meeting with the ITEM team. We met for about 3 hours around the lunch hour.
I am always encouraged by my time here with these men and today was no exception. But when I was talking about bringing apologetics into ITEM’s ministry, a question, unique to Rwanda came up.
Before the team meeting, I met with Rwanda Coordinator, Dominique Rwamfizi to make sure I knew what mentoring was taking place and where. We put together a map that I will put into the photo album. It shows the two areas (circled) where mentoring is taking place. In each circle is a number (3 and 2). Those numbers represent mentoring groups. Each group has one ITEM mentor and ten “mentees.” The map also has three boxes. These are three areas where Dominique wants to move into next. The circle with three groups is around the capital of Kigali. Since Kigali is the capital, more seminars and mentoring groups make sense. They are almost finished with the current set of mentoring meetings. There are currently 23 meetings written with a few more to come.
The meeting “take aways”
These men are very committed to the ITEM distinctive of preaching expository sermons (through entire books of the Bible, every chapter, in sequence). In my pre-meeting with Dominique, he said without being asked that focusing on the pastor’s preaching ministry is unique to ITEM.
The message to them
I reminded them that mentoring is based on relationships not curriculum. It is meant to be a discussion not a lecture. And there is supposed to be accountability in three areas. Both mentors and mentees are to be growing as spiritual “E”xamples, “E”quippers (disciplers), and “E”xpositors. And each meeting is supposed to include discussions about family and ministry, in these three areas.
I also informed them that ITEM is trying to be more active with technology, utilizing Zoom and virtual training. One big challenge here is the language barrier. They speak a tiny bit of English, some speak French, but they are most comfortable in the local language, Kinyarwanda. So, whatever is done for groups has to be interpreted into Kinyarwada.
Another challenge that we talked about today was study resources in either French or Kinyarwanda. ITEM received a grant for the purchase of resources in French and I learned that there is a study Bible in Kinyarwanda but it costs $50. We talked about ways to get the price down with the publisher and maybe ask pastors to share the cost either 50-50 or 60-40, we take 60%. Just brainstorming.
When I brought up the topic of apologetics and reaching the youth, at first there did not seem to be the need there is in other countries. But then when I started talking about the large percent of youth in America who “grow up in the church” that leave the church after high school and why….. two topics came up. 1) There are those who teach that Christianity is a Western religion for the white man and 2) Why did God allow the holocaust? (In 1994, about a million members of the Tutsi tribe were killed in just a few weeks by the Hutu tribe.) Why did God allow that?
This question resembles the one we heard from Cameroon, “Why doesn’t God stop the war?”
It Is a Part of God’s Story
I told them what I’ve told others. “God’s story has four chapters. Chapter 1, Creation and at the end everything was very good. Chapter 4, recreation of a new heaven and a new earth. Why is that necessary? Chapter 2, the fall (sin). We are living with the effects of sin that go all the way back to Gen 3. And we need to realize that when we take a step back and look at God’s story from beginning to end, that these kinds of atrocities have been going on ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God. What is going on is not new and not just limited to what we (locally) are dealing with. Every generation, every tribe, every tongue, every nation has had atrocities that are horrible… all because of Genesis 3. And if God stopped one, to be fair, He would have to stop all or risk being charged with favoritism. So that leaves chapter 3, redemption. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, God is “turning things around” one life at a time. And eventually, at the right time, Jesus will return, set up His kingdom, and eventually create a new heaven and a new earth and from then on, creation will be what God intended it to be from the start.
In the past few days, I’ve met with out teams from Uganda, Kenya, and now Rwanda and I can tell you that they are all doing a good job. They are battling with challenges but they are not
One of the challenges they have faced recently was Covid. Rwanda shut things way down and that was causing hardship for families. But ITEM donors contributed over $20,000 that was divided up among our teams and the men here still talk about it and the people who benefited know of ITEM because of that.
Those of you who pray and give, THANK YOU. Your prayers and investments are not in vain.
Tomorrow, Friday, I head back to Nairobi for some rest this weekend before heading to Liberia on Monday. That will be final stop. I’ll meet with the team on Tuesday and have a Q&A time with youth on Wednesday. Then I will start my trip home on Thursday.
Continue to pray for travel safety and health. Pray for the teams that their labors will continue to bear fruit. That mentees will embrace the expository preaching methodology and be willing to invest the time to prepare helpful, contextual sermons.
By His grace,
HERE IS THE LINK to the photo album with a few new pictures from today.
1 thought on “Steve’s Travel Diary 5”
Thank you, Steve for your updates. We will pray for some rest for you this weekend and pass on a summary of your notes to Hillside Bible Church on Sunday for everyone to be praying for you. Good to hear that your meetings with the teams have been encouraging. John and Martha Bamford