Saturday, December 31, 2011

UNFORGETTABLE


As 2011 comes to a close one word stands out – unforgettable.


We sensed Christ’s Church in Rwanda’s (CCR) future was to be found through investing in Rwanda’s youth. We prayed and moved forward assuming God directed our thought process. Dave in the spring of 2011 lectured to over 600 university students in ethics. Later Dave facilitated the Rwanda Presidential Scholars program with 20 of Rwanda’s brightest students beginning their undergraduate career at some of the top liberal arts universities in the United States. On Friday, 23 December over 300 young people gathered at CCR as we celebrated God’s goodness through music. Unforgettable.


We sensed that CCR must find a way to serve Rwanda’s most vulnerable children. God’s word and the best of Christian theologians resonated with the theme of adoption. On May 13, Mugisha Gabriel entered our lives. He has brought new joy and discovery to our home. On 17 November Mugisha Gabriel began having seizures. The seizures have decreased in frequency and intensity, but still remain. We do not know the future, but belief in God’s call. Unforgettable.


With a few others families in 2005 we began the dream of Kigali International Community School (KICS). We began with 26 students in a 4 bedroom rented home. In April 2007 KICS moved to her current home. The number of students has grown to over 200 from over 30 nationalities. KICS empowered investment and made Kigali livable for many families. On Friday, 27 May Sophia graduated from KICS. It was one of our most rewarding days since we arrived in Rwanda. She was accepted at prestigious Wheaton College. She began her college journey on Thursday, 18 August. Unforgettable.


We sensed that we had entered a season to seek God’s will for the future. Dave spent 40 days outside of Rwanda as we settled Sophia into college. It appeared doors were opening for a year furlough in Chicago to be near Sophia, serve Great Lakes Diaspora, and pursue further education. Then the ROC leadership asked if we would consider returning to the USA for a season to mature ROC as a missionary sending organization. We believed this was the call of God. Nineteen years of missionary service in the Great Lakes Region of Africa is coming to a close as we begin a season of serving in the Great Lakes Region of the United States. Unforgettable.


Our African missionary tradition is to celebrate the Christmas Season with all the strength and joy the Lord gives us. Just before Dave began his Christmas Eve Sermon, news came that our friend, Major Eustache Nsinga had passed from this life to another. Rwanda lost one of her brightest minds in ICT at the young age of 38. His sense of justice, loyalty, hope, and joy is irreplaceable. Our community’s loss is immense. Unforgettable.


Our CCR numbers were high over the Christmas Season. Over 200 attended our Christmas Eve Candlelight Service. Approximately 350 attended our Christmas Day Service. We faced paradox on Monday 26 December as over 650 from our community gathered for Major Eustache Nsinga's funeral. We remembered his life and our hope of a resurrection. Unforgettable.


Rwanda’s missionary tradition from the days of the East African Revival in the 1940’s is to gather on the Kumbya Peninsula on Lake Kivu to rest and reflect. Sophia is home with us for Christmas. Our family is together for a few days in Africa before we begin our newest transition to the United States in 2012. We again are at Kumbya. This morning Dave remembered 45 years and 4 recovered back surgeries as he swam 2400 meters in Lake Kivu. Unforgettable.


Through these journeys old truths remain. Our hope is in the resurrection. On this earth our greatest joys are in family and friends.


Many of you have sacrificed deeply to make this journey possible. Your sacrifices have blessed many. Our December financial report showed that giving was down in 2011. Yet, God has done the surprising through friends and family for 19 years. A year end gift would greatly ease our transitions in 2012. However, God chooses to shape us in 2012 we trust it will be unforgettable.


May your yearend reflections also be filled with joyful memories of the Lord’s goodness.


Imana ikurinde (May God Stay With All of You),


Dave and Jana

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

BIRTHDAY PRAYERS


Our Father Who Art in Heaven,

Our Lord taught us to pray with this address. Somehow, we are not struck by the wonder of our Lord’s simple description. You are the God of All. You are the God of Heaven and Earth. You are Sovereign, Creator, and Redeemer. You are our Father.

When you chose to disclose the intimacies of your intent you spoke through prophets of the Old Testament; your Son, Jesus; and the Apostles of the New Testament. They all proclaimed you as Father. They had many illustrations of your love. The most striking is of adoption.

Our sin has made us like children abandoned in a field. You have adopted us. You are our hope, protector, and provider. You love us with the intimacies of a Father. You laugh with us and cry with us. You cheer for us. You discipline us. You run to us when we return. To dwell in your house is our greatest desire.

Father, for two years some of us at CCR prayed for you to disclose your will for CCR and vulnerable children. We listened. We wrestled. We tried a few things. Then like a flood you spoke. We should have heard sooner and clearer. Yet, we heard. Children belong in a family.

We repent for substituting activities and projects for your intimacies. Adoption is awe inspiring and consuming – just like you. May our love to vulnerable children reflect your love to us.

Thank you for bringing this blessed messenger – Gabriel Mugisha to our lives. His name states your intent. Gabriel is the Mighty Messenger of God. Mugisha is The Blessed One. We have been blessed by his message.

Father he has survived the unthinkable. Father he has captured the hearts of our family, church, and community. We cheer for him. Throughout Kigali as he enters a room we hear, “Mugisha, how are you?” He teaches us to hunger for you.

Father, thank you for his joy, laughter, hope, and endurance. May you bless all of him.

Father, we vacillate between weeping and anger when we see him in a seizure. We ask for you to touch him as your son touched children years ago. Please heal this child.

Father, we thank you for the counsel of doctors and friends in Kigali and Nairobi. We believe like they that Mugisha’s future is a mysterious hope. We thank you that the seizures have decreased. We ask for you to remove them completely.

Father, we love Mugisha as our own child. We recognize he is your child first.

Father, we ask that you take away our temporary status with Mugisha. Please place him in a permanent family.

Father, on my birthday be with the Rwanda judge who we hope to rule today. If Mugisha has a biological family who can be found to care for him with your love please reunite them. If Mugisha’s family cannot be found please clear the way for another.

Father may your glory be seen through Mugisha.

We come to you in the name of your son, Jesus.

Amen

MEMORIAL FOR MAJOR EUSTACHE NSINGA

The word of God in James 4:14 proclaims, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears a little while and then vanishes.” Eustache Nsinga has passed from this life to another far too quickly. Most of us are still in shock. This seems unbelievable.

Eustache Nsinga was born on 4 August 1973 to Emmanuel Basomingera and Marianne Mukasarambuye in Bujumbura, Burundi. He passed from this life to another on Christmas Eve, 24 December 2011 in Kigali. That day will remain unforgettable in all of our lives.
On Christmas Eve 2011 I was performing the Christmas Eve Service at Christ’s Church in Rwanda (CCR) when I was asked to step outside of the assembly for an urgent matter. Gatete, Eustache’s housekeeper came with the news that Eustache Nsinga had passed from this life to another. I thought, “Surely not. This must be an ugly rumor or a big misunderstanding.” I returned to the assembly and sat with my wife, Jana; and told her, “There is an awful rumor going around that Eustache Nsinga has died.”

Then my phone rang. I rarely pick up a phone call during church, but as I looked down I saw it was from Eustache. I stepped out and answered the phone expecting to hear Eustache’s voice. Instead it was his brother, Innocent confirming the news. Eustache has passed from this life to another.

I imagine I am not the only one who has felt shock over this Christmas season.

This morning as I checked emails I received one from a relative of Eustache in Canada. She had seen the dialogue on Facebook and thought this was just a really bad joke. She wrote asking, “Pastor, tell me what is true.”

It is true. Eustache Nsinga has passed from this life to another.

Another word besides unforgettable fills our discussion of Eustache’s passing. That word is irreplaceable. How can we face life without Eustache? A man’s days on this earth are fleeting. We are all just a mist. Yet, the principles of a man’s life endure. There are principles those of us a bit older teach to younger generations.

Many of you are fortunate to have known Eustache longer than the 5 years I knew Eustache. In my interactions with Eustache there were 4 principles in his life that are enduring characteristics. These 4 principles are the substance which makes the memories of Eustache irreplaceable.

The first principle I remember from Eustache’s life is justice and equality.
Eustache befriended me in the early days as we started CCR a little over 4 years ago. From the beginning he never treated me different from others due to the color of my skin. He made me feel as at home in Rwanda as I would feel in the village in the United States where my parents live.

God’s word proclaims in Leviticus 19:33-35, "When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don't take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am God, your God”. Eustache lived this principle.

When I asked him why he was so kind and treated people with equality he told stories. One was of his early years as a refugee in Burundi. Another was his early days as a student at La Roche University in America. I remember him telling me of traveling to the United States when French and Kinyarwanda were his preferred languages and his English skills were just beginning. He told me of going to the university cafeteria, looking at food, and struggling to explain what he wanted to eat. Those memories stayed with Eustache and empowered him to treat others with kindness and equality.

The second enduring principle of Eustache Nsinga’s life was his faithfulness to his covenants. God’s word proclaims, “Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands. (Deuteronomy 7:9.) …. If you listen to these regulations and faithfully obey them, the Lord your God will keep his covenant of unfailing love with you, as he promised with an oath to your ancestors. (Deuteronomy 7:12.)”

In my early years in Rwanda I was fortunate to be part of a small project called the Presidential Scholars that helped some of Rwanda’s best young academic minds study in the USA. The program has grown to over 300 students and Eustache was one of our key early advisors. He shared with me his story of attending La Roche College and upon graduation being one of the few to return to Rwanda while others just disappeared in America. Eustache was faithful to his covenants. He loved Rwanda and could not imagine breaking faith with his covenant to return. As years passed he pointed out that those who thought they had found a better path through broken covenants had become irrelevant while his faithfulness was rewarded.

What gave Eustache the ability to persevere and keep his covenants?

Two more enduring principles of Eustache’s life stand out. The third enduring principle of Eustache’s life is joy. God’s word proclaims, “So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. (John 16:22.)” This is the joy we speak of today. Loss of life on this earth does not endure. Another day is coming. On that day we will rejoice. Our joy cannot be contained by the circumstances of today.

That joy is given by the fourth enduring principle of Eustache’s life, hope. “And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. (Romans 5:4.)” Eustache’s character was one that could endure great difficulties confident in eternal hope.

As we say goodbye to Eustache from this earth some questions come to mind. His death was far too early. He had given much and still had much to give. He was young. He was talented. His dreams for Rwanda had not yet come to pass.

Why this tragic and sudden loss? Death is not God’s intention. His intent is to bring us full and abundant life (John 1:4; 3:15-17; 6:40; 10:10). In the beginning as God created the earth everything He created was good (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). Sickness, death, and suffering were not God’s intent. Death entered into the world as a consequence of sin (Romans 5:12-20). With the entrance of sin into our world everything changed. Yet, God knew this would be the story. He knew that the world and people He created would betray Him. The only way to restore creation to God’s intent was for Him to offer His son to die in our place. God made this choose before the beginning of time. He was a Redeemer before He was a Creator (Ephesians 1:4, 5). The illustration of God’s love is one of an Adoptive Father rescuing an abandoned child (Ezekiel 16:4-6). This is what God has done for all of us.

Where is this going? We will go to Eustache (2 Samuel 12:23). He will not return to us. King David as he grieved for his sick son stopped his grief when the son died. He recognized in the passing of life that now the season had come in which he would go to his passed son. We are now in that season. We will go to Eustache.

Some may ask, “Where is God when we suffer? He is not distant. He sees our grief and is filled with compassion (John 11:33-35). The stories of Jesus in the New Testament use an English word that is translated compassion. Those of us that speak several languages know that sometimes there is a word in one language that cannot be adequately translated to another. Splaxna is the Greek word usually translated “compassion” in English bibles. It literally means that when Jesus sees another suffering it made him hurt inside. Jesus literally felt “shaky guts.” This is part of being human created in the image of God. We feel one another’s pain. Then as we go to them and physically touch them we are physically healed.

We experienced that the last few days. The news of Eustache’s death was shocking. It left us confused and disorientated. It made us physically in pain. Then as we met and embraced we were comforted and healed.

I have a small genetic misfortune. My dad, brothers, and uncles all have portions of the cartilage in our spines that will deteriorate. As the cartilage collapses it causes severe pain that radiates down our legs and arms. I have had 4 seasons in which this pain came to my life. During the first season I was very angry with God. Yet, a friend told me is it ok to be angry with God. He is a big enough God to receive the anger. In the midst of the anger God healed my spirit.

The last time I experienced this pain just before I went into surgery I saw a phone call coming into my mobile phone. It was Eustache Nsinga calling to encourage me. He was like Jesus to me. He had lived through pain. He knew what it was like to suffer. He came close to encourage and suffered with me. In the process I found courage and hope.

Ultimately, Jesus answers the question of where is God when we suffer by his death upon the cross. Our sin has caused great suffering. On the cross the consequences of sin are taken away (Hebrews 2:17-18).

What can we expect? The Resurrection is coming. Let me close by reading God’s word.

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die (John 11:25).”

“For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him (1 Thessalonians 4:14).”

“And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever (
John 14:16).”

Friday, December 23, 2011

CHRISTMAS AT CHRIST'S CHURCH IN RWANDA



Dear CCR Family and Friends,

I imagine most of us are now scurrying to make our final preparations for Christmas. We are looking for every possible coin, contacting family and friends, enjoying our holidays, and planning celebrations.

Yet, in the midst of our busyness many of us also struggle. Those who keep statistics on the human spirit note that the Christmas season for many is the loneliest of the year.

Even as we read the stories of the Son of God’s entrance into our world we see He came during a time of great economic and political turmoil. His own family was going through embarrassing situations (Matthew 1).

Yet, with the birth of every child comes promise.
He was given two names. The first, “Jesus” predicted that He would take away our failings so that we could discover all the wonder of life. The second, “Immanuel” told us that God himself would come close to us. We would live in community with God and men.

I hope your entire family will discover again the joy of living in community with God and men this Christmas. We are making special plans for this weekend at CCR.

• Tonight, Friday, 23 December we will host the Youth Dance Festival Of Da Year - Round 3 AND 4 ( Finals). We will start at 6:00 p.m. God’s Army Dance Troupe from Uganda will be our guest performers.

• Tomorrow, Christmas Eve, Saturday, 24 December we will host a Christmas Children’s Party at 4:30 p.m. Father Christmas will make a special appearance.

• This will be followed by one of our yearly highlights, the CCR Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at 6:00 p.m. where we use candles to symbolize the entrance of the light of the world into our dark world.


• For Christmas Day, Sunday 25 December we will have just one worship service at 10:00 a.m.

We hope you will be able to join us as we celebrate community with God and men.

Dave

Friday, December 16, 2011

WE HAVE NO PROPERTY FOR RENT IN TULSA

It seems our Nigerian conman stalker is at it again. For the last year, someone has been using Craig's List to rent pseudo-property masquerading as us. He's attempted to rent property in New York and the East Coast of the United States. We've done blogs, Facebook statuses, and twitter. Also, I've dropped notes to Craig's List and yahoo plus tried to go through law enforcement internet reporting mechanisms.

His story is that he is us, will be out of the USA for several years, and would like to rent his home.

It is not true.

Please don't fall for this scam.

If you are able to ever meet this individual face to face please place your hands upon him, pray, and contact your nearest police station.

Monday, December 12, 2011

13 CHRISTMAS' IN AFRICA

Today is Jamhuri (Independence) Day in Kenya. 48 years ago, our Kenyan brothers and sisters began their journey as a nation free from colonialism.



Today our home nation of the USA rests on the calendar between American Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is a season of remembrance, joy, thanksgiving, and community.


Today is the 26th day that we have struggled with our foster son, Mugisha Gabriel’s seizures.


We have been in Nairobi for 12 days seeking medical expertise. Our son, Timothy is with us. Our old oldest daughter, Sophia is finishing her final exams at Wheaton College in Chicago, Illinois, USA; and plans to join us in Kigali for Christmas on Saturday, 17 December. Our other children; Caleb, Ethan, and Ruth remain in Kigali – attending school and living at home. Through a season of difficulty our family is in three different countries, but united in hope. We trust we will shortly be together face to face.

Over the last 12 days we have done EEG, MRI, X-rays, and blood tests for Mugisha Gabriel. We have seen a pediatric neurologist, Dr. Osman Miyanji at Aga Khan University Hospital. The diagnosis seems clear. Mugisha Gabriel had a brain injury at birth. The cyst is his body’s attempt to protect and heal. The seizures are the results of the injury. We are adjusting medicine and doing occupational therapy. We do not know Mugisha Gabriel’s future. God knows Mugisha Gabriel’s future. He instructs us that every child deserves life in a family.


We have learned to trust our faith community. Some have written us. Ann Rugege, a CCR member wrote, “He has endured so much. He is a survivor and will overcome this too. What a challenge, but God is still in control. May His message or lesson be revealed.”

Another, Annik Rudakemwa wrote, “Don’t worry pastor. I know that God has a good plan for Gabriel. Let’s keep praying for him. Thank you. Be blessed.”


Kenya is the nation of Jana’s childhood. It feels familiar yet foreign at the same time. Arriving in Nairobi feels like arrival in Kampala, Uganda; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; or Abilene, Texas. These are cities filled with good memories. Yet, our arrival at each city requires a fresh start. All cities change. Since our last visit friends have come and gone from Nairobi. Also, traffic seems a bit more hectic. At times these fresh starts feel quite lonely. An arrival brought on by crisis increases the sense of loneliness.


Christmas is the season of wonder. Matthew introduces the story of Jesus with theological clarity. Jesus is the Messiah (Christ, Anointed One, Fulfiller of our Hopes). Jesus is the descendant of Judah’s ideal king and father (David, the King; and Abraham, the Patriarch of the Nation) (1:1). When we are tempted to take pride Matthew reminds us our humanity. Our ancestors just like us have many failings (1:2-17). Into humanity’s paradox of chaos and hope God enters miraculously, comes close, and rescues us (1:18-25).


Dave’s first Christmas in Africa was as disastrous as memorable. (For further reading see http://jenkinsinrwanda.blogspot.com/2010/12/my-first-african-christmas.html).


The consequence was learning to embrace and celebrate paradox, unity, and wonder. Through our journey in Africa we expect God to do the profound and unexpected each Christmas season. We create traditions that empower discovery. CCR embraces these traditions of discovery.


It seems each Christmas in Africa God provides an earthly reminder of His care and sovereignty. On the second day of our Nairobi medical journey we stopped at Uchumi Supermarket at the Sarit Center to buy some supplies for Mugisha Gabriel. Then from behind us an old friend called. It was Mona Zikusooka. We had not seen her in seven years. God put our paths together again for such a time as this.


During our years in Uganda we had a delightful season in the mid-90’s in which we served a group of university students and young professionals with a ministry called UP (University. Professional). Jacob Zikusooka and his romantic interest, Mona were part of our core. The ministry vision was simple – provide a Saturday evening alternative to discos and bars. With Uganda’s raging AIDS crisis at the time it was a matter of life and death. Out of weekly party opportunities to mentor young people grew.


As Jacob and Mona decided their romance would grow into marriage they asked for us to do pre-marital counseling. We spent six months meeting weekly and sharing the wisdom God had given our own young marriage. It was one of those ministry seasons in which we found great joy. We’ve counseled other couples since then, but never for the amount of time with Jacob and Mona.


As time went on Jacob and Mona graduated. They had three beautiful daughters. Mona had a good job with Save The Children. Jacob worked with a clearing and forwarding company, and then had the courage to launch his own business.

We moved to Rwanda in 2005 from Uganda and lost touch. We on occasion traded an e-mail once a year or so, but beyond that had little contact.


The Zikusookas matured in life. Jacob served as the Chairman of the Elders board at a local church in Uganda. Two months ago, unknown to us Mona took a job with Save The Children’s Somalia Project in Nairobi. Jacob opened an office in Nairobi. The Zikusookas became Nairobi residents.


We had lunch with Jacob on Mona the first Sunday we were in Nairobi. A few days later, Nairobi guesthouse living became too difficult. We needed to be in a place that felt like family. We moved in with Jacob and Mona. A few hours later, Gabriel had a seizure. Their family gathered with us quietly around Gabriel, touched him, and gently prayed.


God had placed our lives in just the places we needed to be.


2011 marks 18 years in Africa as adults. Of these years we have spent 13 Christmas’ in Africa. As we matured to embrace African Christmas traditions God showed us the wonder of Immanuel. He is near. He displays His care many times through friendships that arise in surprising ways. Christmas is a season of wonder.


Some will use words such as “mentors” to describe our influence for the Lord in our Great Lakes Region. We’re quite hesitant to take titles that portray us in light that looks heroic. God is the hero of this journey. We have gone where we were called, spoken good words for Jesus, and done the work of each day. Sometimes we have juggled seasons of chaos. All the chaotic seasons transitioned to a place of thanksgiving for God’s providence.

Now, it seems we are nearing the close of a season in Africa. We sense God is calling us to return to the USA. We sense we must return to honor our parents and nurture our children. We sense we must return to mature ROC as a missionary sending organization. This call is more painful than the one that brought us to Uganda 18 years ago.


Where will we be on Kenya’s Jamhuri Day?


With whom will we dance on October 9 to celebrate Uganda’s Independence?


On July 4 as we celebrate America’s Independence with who will we also thank God that Rwanda’s Genocide was brought to an end?


When we are in a foreign city and in crisis will we find an old friend? Who will offer us shelter, food, and prayers for our children?


Christmas teaches us that the answers to these questions rest in the nature of God. He will be near. His care is expressed through His people.


18 years have happened because family, friends, and churches have shared in our call. They have listened, heard, and made painful sacrifices. Those sacrifices have changed lives. Those sacrifices have been Immanuel like gifts.


Our support usually increases during our furloughs. Then about one year to 18 months after returning to Africa it starts a gradual decline. We hold our breath and hope for the best. Each Christmas season it seems we receive a few gifts of wonder that continue the sustenance of God.


We request that this season you join us in making a donation. We are a faith mission dependent on God’s providence expressed through free will offerings of family, friends, and churches.


Thirteen days ago, we reserved tickets to come to Nairobi to seek medical care for Gabriel with no money in hand. A few hours later two friends surprised us. We also came not knowing which old friends we would discover in Nairobi.


We thank God for his providence.


If you would like to make a yearend donation, please make a check to ROC Partners with Jenkins Memo, and mail it to:


ROC Partners,
3007 NW 63rd Ste 205
Oklahoma City, OK 73116-3605





Thank you for sharing this journey with us.


Dave and Jana

Sunday, December 4, 2011

PRAY FOR GABRIEL MUGISHA



Dear Family and Friends,

Ten days ago was American Thanksgiving. Our home was busy. We had over 70 guests. American holidays in Africa are treasured memories. In a certain way they come with more intensity and purpose. The number of American missionary, development workers, and business people in Rwanda has grown significantly in the last 6 years. Our home is one of those gathering points of celebration and thanksgiving. We count it a sacred joy.

Yet between celebrations we ran back and forth to King Faisal Hospital to be with our foster son, Gabriel Mugisha. He began having seizures on November 17. There is a cyst in his brain. We remember our faith, love Gabriel, and pray.

After spending 11 days at King Faisal Hospital in Kigali we decided to travel to Nairobi, Kenya to see a pediatric neurologist. Last Thursday, we had our first appointment with Dr. Miyanji (The Senior Pediatric Neurologist at Nairobi’s Aga Khan University Hospital.) He has ordered more tests. We will have our follow up visit with him on Tuesday, December 6.

We ask that through these holiday seasons you join us in the holy paradox of faith and prayer. Thank you so much for your prayers, support, and encouragement through this season.

Imana ikurinde (May God Stay With All of You),

Dave and Jana

P.S. If you would like more details about our journey with Gabriel you can check out our most recent blog postings at http://jenkinsinrwanda.blogspot.com/2011/11/when-you-close-your-eyes-and-see-infant.html



P.S.S. The story of Gabriel has captured our community’s attention. Dave’s most recent Focus column can be read at http://focus.rw/wp/2011/11/what-if-god-had-not-placed-these-children-in-a-family/.

Monday, November 28, 2011

WHAT IF GOD HAD NOT PLACED THESE CHILDREN IN A FAMILY?

Ruth and Timothy with Ethan at Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda
This week, my foster son, Gabriel Mugisha is hospitalized. He is having convulsions. We are in King Faisal Hospital waiting and trusting. Each day a few friends stop by to pray, offer support, and give wisdom and encouragement. I made a parental mistake. I should have taken Mugisha to the Emergency Room immediately on Friday, 18 November. Instead I thought his odd rhythmic movement must just be another part of being a premature baby. Thankfully, doctors I knew got him in the queue and quickly saw a problem needing attention on Monday, 21 November. As I offered remorse for delaying a few days one friend mentioned, “He would not be alive if you had not taken him home.” Her counsel is likely true. I have two adopted children and one foster child. What would their lives be like if they were not in my home? Or what if God had not placed these children in a family? God guides our lives. However, we make choices that have consequences.

My first adopted child Ruth is simply beautiful. We first saw her when she was six weeks old. Even as an infant she had thick diva hair and long captivating eye lashes. My dad saw her for the first time when she was two years old. He pulled me aside and said, “David, I’ve never seen a girl this beautiful. I can’t believe her eyelashes.” When Ruth enters a room I watch all the men notice. She has very unique features. Her hair and skin color are like the people from northern Uganda. Her facial features and body are refined and softly round like those from western Uganda. I’ve had strangers in both America and Africa courageously move past stares and ask, “Where did this girl come from? What is her story?” All we know is that she was abandoned outside a home in Kampala, went from Sanyu Babies home to our home, and is our daughter with all legal and relationship rights.

Ruth is growing into a woman. Life is changing.

The teachers, headmaster and bazamu at her school make her daily educational life safe. The men who pastor with me make her church life safe. The leaders of our umudugudu make our community safe. My dad, brothers, and sons are all strong and when near Ruth keep her safe. The leaders of Rwanda have made Kigali a city so safe I don’t worry when Ruth walks through the streets to visit friends. I am immensely thankful to all.

Yet, I know the fate of a beautiful young woman in a world where no men protectively watch her. Beautiful young women outside of families are often mistreated, exploited, and then harshly judged. What if God had not placed Ruth in our family? God guides our lives. However, we make choices that have consequences.

Gabriel Mugisha Jacobs with the nurses cared for him in Rwamagana
My second adopted child Timothy is simply athletically gifted. He is small in stature, but among his peers usually the fastest runner, best football player, and wins almost every dance off. Yet if you watch closely you will notice his right arm is not functional. Timothy has a minor case of cerebral palsy. Before he was born something went wrong. Maybe, his biological mother had malaria? There was a brain injury that left him with difficulty of function on his right side. When he was 10 months old we noticed that as he crawled his left side pulled his limp right. A doctor diagnosed cerebral palsy. Then he pulled himself to standing, took his first step, and it turned into a run. The running has never stopped. In a family with a dad and two older brothers he outran his handicap. By God’s grace he overcame. Some will notice Timothy’s struggle with his right arm. Yet none who know him consider him handicapped.

Yet, I know the fate of a handicapped child who is not in a family. They are labeled. If they are in an institution competing with many other children they lose the initial competitions. The extra care of a dad or brothers who run is never given. They become victims instead of victors. What if God had not placed Timothy in our family? God guides our lives. However, we make choices that have consequences.

My foster son, Gabriel Mugisha is a blessed messenger. His life has been too short for us to see all God intends. Yet, we know that he has a remarkably strong will to live. His story and spirit captures all who meet him. He was born on 11 March in a village weighing only 1.3 kilos. His biological mother abandoned him at the Rwamagana hospital the next day. He came to our home 8 weeks later weighing only 1.5 kilos. He now weighs 5.1 kilos. Doctors at King Faisal Hospital found a cyst in his brain on August 10. For 3 months it has been irrelevant. Now Mugisha is having convulsions. We do not know where this will end, but we have seen God do the remarkable through Mugisha. The most recent doctor’s appraisal is that Mugisha needs medication to manage his convulsions. After several days of medicine the convulsions are declining. We are all hopeful.

Yet, I know the fate of a premature baby who is not in a family? Most do not live. Most do not get the chance to fight for their lives with the support of a family, church, and community. What if God had not placed Mugisha in our family? God guides our lives. However, we make choices that have consequences.

Ruth, Timothy, and Mugisha all received a God intention to be a part of a family. Without that opportunity their lives likely would be tragic. Now, they are full of all the promise of childhood. Statistically, they are the fortunate few. There are thousands of children who are not part of this fortunate few. Yet, each day in Kigali thousands of us drive a car to work. If we can afford to drive a car we most likely possess the resources, network, and creativity to care for one more child.

Some may look at our family and conclude we are some type of “great men and women of God.” That appraisal is mistaken. Those who know us best know that what good we do is simply the result of God’s grace. This grace is available to all.


NYIRAMATAMA Zaina, with Mark, Chelsea, and Gabriel MUGISHA Jacobs
Others may look at our family and conclude that somehow our race makes us more capable to care for the vulnerable. That appraisal also is mistaken. Those who share my race sometimes make fun that our many years in Africa have made us “African.” We consider what some mean as an insult to instead be a blessing. It is by grace that we have become so “African.” Grace is available to all.


Thus I conclude. What if God had not placed these children in a family? God guides our lives. However, we make choices that have consequences. These choices are by grace. Grace is available to all.

WHEN YOU CLOSE YOUR EYES AND SEE AN INFANT IN A SEIZURE

Our Thanksgiving week has come to an end. We are full of paradox. We have much for which to be thankful. God has done far more than we anticipated in six years in Rwanda. We have many friends. God is God – Sovereign, Just, Loving, and Gracious. Our walk on earth is full of joy and we wait in eagerness for the return of our Lord. Yet, at the same time as I close my eyes I see Mugisha Gabriel in a seizure. How does one communicate?



  • We believe God has adopted all who believe into his eternal family.



  • We believe the metaphor of adoption communicates the shocking state our condition apart from God.



  • We believe the metaphor of adoption communicates the intimacy God gives to all His children.



  • We believe God loves orphans and vulnerable children.



  • We believe every child has a right to be in a family.



  • We believe that sickness, suffering, and death are not God’s will. We believe sin has brought horrible consequences upon this earth.



  • We believe God commands those He has adopted to adopt orphans.



  • We believe that God’s glory is shown by His adopted children telling their stories of their journeys with God.



  • We believe God is the hero of eternity. We believe His plans, purposes, and actions began before Creation.



  • We believe a day is coming when every tear will be wiped away and joy will be our eternal state.



We long for a day in which He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”


For two years a small group of us at Christ’s Church in Rwanda (CCR) gathered to pray for vulnerable children. CCR’s founding intent is to develop “thought leaders.”




  • We believe this is God’s call.



  • We believe a thought leader is one who gathers others and leads them in discovery. We notice this ranges from university students to middle class housewives to the upper echelon of a nation’s leadership. Sometimes thought leaders are mistakenly seen as power brokers.



  • We believe CCR must develop philosophic and pragmatic leadership of how an upwardly mobile church cares for the most vulnerable.



  • We believe the CHURCH must both submit to government authorities while paradoxically holding them to account as the prophets of old.



  • We believe the Rwanda Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion’s (MIGEPROF) policy of de-institutionalization reflects God’s intent.



  • We believe God’s adopted children must engage.



This small group at CCR saw that our members were engaged with orphans in many different ways. However, they felt that God was calling us as a cooperate body to pull our gifts and resources together. Thus we would encourage and confront our community to embrace the orphan. To prevent children from going into institutions/orphanages we would provide temporary families through fostering and find permanent families by advocating for adoption. Moses Mbabaali, our youth pastor shared with us that the CCR senior pastor must lead in this and others would follow. Jana was in prayer one morning in May. She poured her heart out to God as things seemed to be moving slowly. She asked for confirmation that this was the direction He was calling CCR. Then she received a phone call that an abandoned baby needed a home from Faith Shaw. Spoken For began.


A few days later Mugisha Gabriel entered our home. (To read more about the story of Gabriel’s entrance to our family see http://jenkinsinrwanda.blogspot.com/2011/05/spoken-for-gabriel-mugisha.html.) (To see most recent photos of a fat Gabriel see: http://jenkinsinrwanda.blogspot.com/2011/10/gabriel-mugisha-before-and-after.html.)

As Mugisha Gabriel entered our home we know he came with no guarantees. Children are unpredictable. However, he came with God’s promise. He was loved. He was in an earthly and heavenly family. God would protect and provide. Mugisha Gabriel was an answer to sincere prayers. God would use Mugisha Gabriel to display His glory and intent.

Mugisha Gabriel is a premature baby. With that birth trauma comes some unforeseen health issues. We believe these are opportunities for God to display His glory.

After about six weeks in our home Mugisha Gabriel became a colicky baby. He gained weight, but would cry inconsolably.

As he gained weight the first flesh to his skin and bones body was pure muscle. He weighed only a few kilograms (pounds), but it was all meat. He had six pack abs, veins on his biceps, and tight hamstrings. He looked like a 2 kilo (4 pound 4 ounce) body builder. In the back of our minds we pondered if this muscle was an indication that Mugisha’s body would grow to be as strong as his will to live.

Yet, another possibility existed. High muscle tone is an early indication of cerebral palsy (cp). On 21 July 2011, Canadian Baptist Missionary friends, Bruno and Kathleen Soucy came by our home with a visitor of theirs, Dr. Peter Rumney who is a pediatric specialist for premature babies. We were fortunate that as we had suspicions God placed a specialist in our Kigali community for a few weeks. Dr. Rumney noted that though Gabriel had many things going well for him, he also possibly had the early signs of cerebral palsy.

We entered an odd season of prayer. Our youngest son, Timothy has cerebral palsy. Several of our close friends have children with cerebral palsy. We no longer beg God for the cp to be taken away. Childhood handicaps are not God’s intent. Yet, His glory is manifest through our struggles of earth. We held our breath and sought the glory of God.

We heard a rumor of an American pediatrician at King Faisal Hospital (KFH) in Kigali. We asked questions and the rumor was true. Dr. Eileen Ulku was a Yale Pediatric Lecturer spending a season in Rwanda training Rwandan doctors. Besides her labor in education, Dr. Ulku was available for clinics. We made an appointment. Gabriel was gaining weight and the colick was diminishing. A CAT scan was ordered to confirm if Gabriel had cp.

Gabriel was given an IV during the scan. Jana held his hand through the scan. Dave stayed with the technicians. For Gabriel it was like torture. For us it was necessary but traumatic. As Dave saw the scan take place the technician pointed out the obvious. There was something in the middle of Gabriel’s brain.

The next day was the day that Sophia and Dave would fly to the USA to begin Sophia’s Wheaton journey. We saw Dr. Ulku a few hours before the flight on Thursday, 10 August. Gabriel has a large left parietal cyst. However, there were no signs of cerebral palsy. Gabriel did not have symptoms that indicated the cyst was causing problems. Dr. Ulku explained that cysts are sometimes part of being a premature baby. Most are never noticed. Gabriel’s brain appeared to be adapting well. She mentioned that she would consult with Dr. Emmanuel Rukakemwa, the KFH radiologist; and Dr. Emmanuel Nkusi, the KFH neurosurgeon. (Both are CCR members.) She also mentioned that she would consult with her pediatric neurologist colleagues at Yale. Her consel was to wait and watch.

The conversations were sobering. However, we realized that God had placed us in a community with great expertise. In fact, we realized it was unlikely that if we were in a similar situation in the USA we would have as much community expertise near us as we had in Rwanda.

Gabriel continued to gain weight. His collick diminished.

Then something odd began happening on Thursday, 17 November. Gabriel began having odd rhythmic movements. It was like he was doing the old fashioned straight leg sit ups. With rhythm he would do these movements for 2 to 5 minutes. His eyes were open. He appeared aware, but unable to control the movements. He did not cry. He did not slobber. It was almost like a muscle spasm. It was almost like hiccups. We have over reacted before in raising children. However, Jana remarked that in raising six babies she had never seen anything like this. In the back of our mind were seizures.

Dr. Ulku was out of Rwanda until 1 December. On Friday, 18 November we contacted Dr. Nkusi and mentioned the possibility of seizures. He referred us to King Faisal Hospital’s best pediatrician, Dr. Steven Musiime. We made an appointment for Monday, 21 November.
On Monday, 21 November we waited in line for several hours. We tried to think of the best way to communicate what was happening with Gabriel. It only happened for 9 to 15 minutes each day. Then just as it was our turn to see Dr. Musiime Gabriel began his odd rhythmic movements. Dr. Musiime immediately diagnosed Gabriel’s rhythmic motions as convulsions. Gabriel was admitted to the hospital. He was given an IV.

The next day Gabriel had another CAT scan. The cyst in his brain has grown just slightly. Dr. Nkusi has ruled out surgery. We are trying to treat Gabriel’s seizures with medication. We have yet to have a day when Gabriel does not have a seizure. Some days the seizures are less frequent and intense. Then we will have a day where they last long, are a bit more frequent, and have more intensity. A week later we are still at King Faisal Hospital.





The seizures end with Gabriel having a confused and painful look on his face. He cries. We comfort him.

When I close my eyes I see Gabriel in a seizure. What do we do? How do we communicate?

At best we quote scripture, pray, and remember our beliefs. Please join us in faith and prayer.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

KIGALI NEEDS A NEW VISION OF CHURCH

Last week, my friend Shya­ka Kanuma wrote an edi­torial, Some Balokole churches and their question­able behavior. He had the cour­age to raise the issues in public that many of us whisper in pri­vate. What is going on with this Balokole movement? Are their churches rapidly growing? They seem everywhere. Or are they really growing? What is their true influence? He clearly was neither against church attendance nor spiritual hunger. Some of the issues that concerned Shyaka were noise, presumption, greed, division, deception, and exploitation. He believed that there must be honorable pastors somewhere in Kigali.

Joe Church, William Nagenda, Festo Kivengere.Claire Lise De Benoit
I agree. Yes, something has gone wrong with our Kilokole tradi­tions. Yet, I also believe there are honorable pastors and churches in Kigali. Shyaka wrote, “The Rwandan Balokole leaders seem a model of tranquility and good behaviour compared to some neighboring soci­eties.” We have something to offer. However, we cannot deny that few seem willing to take their place as culture’s prophets. In the same vein our community may not be ready to listen to proph­et’s voices. Kigali needs a new vision of church. It is time to relearn Rwanda’s Balokole history, honor the principles of our heritage, leave our current failings, and become a new community.

For those unfamiliar with the Balokole tradi­tion it grew out of a frustration with what some considered a dead Anglican Church of Uganda. Gahini, Rwanda was one of the founder’s places of discovery and refuge. From the beginnings in the 1930’s and 40’s the Balokole have gone against the grain of comfort. Kilokole at its best is a cul­ture opposed to segregation by denomination, nationality, race, and ethnicity. Yet, something went wrong. Kilokole culture was so “other worldly” that it became irrelevant. It shunned the world of politics and business. As time went on the fires that stirred in churches for personal renewal begin to seek personal en­richment. Thus we have our current situation that Shyaka addressed. (For further reading see The Balokole Revival in Uganda)

In Uganda and Kenya my impression is that a quick drive around town will give one the vision of Balokole churches everywhere. (For further reading on my reflections see past Focus column Can someone pick up the trash?) In Kam­pala and Nairobi the Balokole churches are as numerous as the Buvera and just as problematic. My impression of Kigali is that Ba­lokole Churches are common where Buvera clusters, but rare on the tops of Kigali’s beautiful hills. I have not seen research on the recent growth of Balokole churches. My impression is they are thriving among those who grew up attending a Balokole church. However, my impression is they are largely irrelevant to those outside of their social circle, particularly those who are educated, upwardly mobile, and who have found religion in Rwanda to be disappointing.

The Balokole irrelevancy is due to the factors Shyaka points out of noise, presumption, greed, division, deception, and exploitation. I am a Mulokole. Yet, I do not trust Balokole.

For instance, I have lectured on Ethics for years at local universi­ties. It seems each semester I discover an ethical failing of students. As I raise the issue frequently I find the students who shout the loud­est at Balokole events seem to have the greatest struggle conceptual­izing the ethical failings of both their reasoning and behavior. Yet, it is usually a Muslim and Agnostic student who is the first reasonable voice. I suspect my observations with university students are quite similar to other’s observation. When it is all said and done many Ba­lokole have shouted loudly while living poorly. It is time for a new vision of church.

It is time to rediscover our heritage ideals. We need a new prophet. The irrelevant Balokole love the language of prophets. They define a prophet as a person who predicts the future. The irrelevant Balokole love this man as he can bring predictions of the future that promote personal greed and comfort. A relevant definition of prophet is a person gifted with profound moral insight and exceptional powers of expression. Our new church vision must have prophets with profound moral insight and pow­ers of expression. As such these church prophets will confront the noise, presumption, greed, di­vision, deception, and exploitation.

An old prophet named Elijah pointed out that the loudness of one’s noise was a mark of one who did not know the Lord (1 Kings 18:27-29; 19:12, 13). Pointless noise and flamboyant show is a mark of a pagan; not a pastor.

Loud noise breeds another pagan fallacy – pre­sumption. The pseudo-pastor makes noise to persuade the crowd that he alone has a message from God. He dodges accountability that asks if his predictions come true. He presumes to be a god like figure. Today’s best prophets will call this paganism to account as they fathers did gen­erations ago (Deuteronomy 18:20-22).

The Balokole problems of greed, division, deception, and exploitation are not new to our generation. Before Judas betrayed Jesus he ma­nipulated the disciples’ finances for personal gain (John 12:2-8). Our Kigali charlatans are no different. Some well live in the model of “What would Judas do?” Greed gives birth to division. As division moves past social manipulations it falls into the same pitfalls of the past. Thus Paul clearly communicated that no one who uses violence to solve church problems is qualified to lead (Titus 1:7). Sadly, paganism masquerading as pastoral care has his­torically deviated into sexual exploitation as Shyaka narrates (1 Peter 2). There is nothing new. The solutions are old. Prophets must speak against such abuse of people. Churches must model all that is best in humanity. Our dignity matters.

Kigali needs a new vision of church. We must rediscover the ide­als of the past, leave our failings, and build new communities. Our churches must be the leaders in the development of sustainable in­stitutions from schools to businesses. Only in church do we learn to love, trust, and triumph through weakness. Shyaka, you stated it well. There are honorable people in churches in Kigali. Kigali needs a new vision of church.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

CAN SOMEONE PICK UP THE TRASH?


(Focus Column, February 3, 2009)

My family just returned from our Christmas vacation in Kampala—the land of Garden City Mall, Speke Munyonyo Resort, Alleygators Bowling Alley, Cineplex Cinema, and boundless biwempe churches and buvera.

Entertainment knows no bounds in Kampala and her mushrooming churches provide almost as much entertainment as her noisy FM stations. My unceasing pondering mind had to wrestle deeply. Why, when I drive into Kampala, do the number of balokole churches and organizations become as noticeable as the uncollected trash? It seemed that every 200 meters was graced by a church and every 2 centimeters was graced by a buvera.

I planted a church in Kampala, but in my quiet moments I pondered if it was just more religious clutter. Did it really make a difference? As time went on during our 11 years in Kampala my church paradigms were reborn through friendly discussions with those who did not share my beliefs, but who were my colleagues in dialogue about development.

My conclusions were no longer orthodox and I became a controversial figure among some balokole. Thus I arrived in Rwanda convinced that the faith community had a voice to offer, but by and large her paradigms of the last 30 years had been irrelevant noise.

During my morning Kampala run I ran on some of my old paths, but came with new eyes. History tells me that the faith community has built the leading institutions of communities during seasons of renewal.

However, sometimes what masquerades for renewal seems like the loud noises of my Lord’s opponents. His opponents were masters at drawing attention to themselves with the impressive sounds of religious babble.

The Kilokole language is so intense that it is like a new tribe speaking a jargon only known by itself. I know the lingo, but it all seemed the same—religious clutter with no point.

About every 200 meters on my run I noticed a balokole church or NGO. The names changed, but it all seemed the same.

Then I noticed Kampala’s other striking feature—boundless buvera. Mingled among the buvera was the urban refuse of life. Occasionally, some one would sweep it all together to start a fire. For my runner’s lungs this was murder. Why can’t someone pick up the trash so I can just deal with elevation and old age?

Trash, dust, and smoke are not the substance of life’s best breath. I noticed a striking pattern—the churches in Kampala that had made an impact on the city cleaned the trash in front of their structures. The biwempe who mastered in Kilokole was no different than a fish monger when it came to cleaning the trash. For those who must discern whether a church is legitimate, I offer the buvera test. Can they clean up after themselves? My suspicion is that a dirty church front represents a dirty community.

My morning run found other tests to discern the legitimate from the buvera church. The second test I would offer to provide discernment is the witchdoctor test. Can the Kilokole be easily translated to the jargon of witchdoctors? Is the music the same with only translated words?

If the cross and church name were removed could this place easily be mistaken for a shrine? Is the predominant concern success by all methods, healing, and cursing those who one is jealous of? Too many biwempe are witchdoctors masquerading as Christian theologians. If this is a true church she shares my Lord’s convictions that suffering, service, and a prophetic voice are core to all she does. Witchdoctors are never comfortable in an environment where philosophic truth and uncompromising ethics reigns.

My third test is the institution test. When I read the history of religious renewals that history determined were legitimate they always left a legacy. The legacy was institutions—schools, hospitals, libraries, and community gathering points of service and knowledge. Unfortunately, among some balokole “institutions” are a dirty word.

They prefer to huddle and babble in their strange new tongues. What better way to promote donor guilt and rake in money? After all an institution requires a budget, and a budget requires accountability. Thus the buvera church prefers to avoid building institutions. The legitimate church hungers for more opportunities to build.

My fourth test is the partnership test. History also tells that during seasons of renewal Christian people put aside their denominational divisions to build. The needs of the community were too compelling for sectarian posturing. From the United States Second Great Awakening to East Africa’s Revival partnerships are a consistent mark of the legitimate legacy.

In Kampala’s buvera churches are ruled by a lone pastor. He is a one man show. His preaching seeks to divide from others. His buvera community proclaims him king, and he prefers to be king of the buvera than a partner in a clean community.

Thus as we discern the legitimate from the buvera we look for a leader who is most comfortable with people who reason different from he. The legitimate finds lively discussion both refining and refreshing. When the discussion brings many diverse hands together the buvera is cleaned and the community thrives.

So my morning Kampala runs affirmed by new birth. The biwempe and the buvera are close cousins. My balokole brothers at times are misguided. The path to renewal is rather simple. Can someone pick up the trash?

Come run with me.

REDEEMING LOST TIME AND SEXUALITY



A few months ago I was at a uni­versity student function. The president of the student associa­tion came to the podi­um to make a speech on time management. He masterfully told a proverb, “Time is like virginity. Once you lose it, it is gone forever.” With a hormonally charged audience the crowd erupted in laughter. His proverb would never be forgotten. Each speech that followed his tried to intertwine the proverb. His point will resonate for years.

Yet, I was not convinced he had actually persuaded any­one to manage better either their time or sexu­ality. I suspected that the curiosity of youth would find outlets for both sexual experimen­tation and time squandering. Laughter gave them permission. Would the consequences be so startling that changed behavior would be the response?

According to the wisdom of university hos­tels and B movies youth is a season of sexual discovery. Lost virginity is really no big matter. For some, it is a mark of pride and conquest.

With such logic, time also becomes a com­modity of pride and conquest. Lost time is no big matter. Youth have their whole lives in front of them. A little lost time may actually be just the results of youthful experimentation. Youthful pride in strength, intelligence, and in­vincibility allows one to think lost time can be quickly regained.

A friend from my younger days once took this line of logic to an extreme in an office debate. He boasted that he had sexual encounters with 100 differ­ent women. He argued that the experiences were good and because he used a condom the potential disastrous con­sequences were non-existent. I asked him to give me the names and phone numbers of the young women so I could confirm his perception. He was at loss. When I told him after speaking to the young women I’d call their dad and brothers for further perspective the office erupted, and my youthful friend fell silent.

The reality is that both lost time and sexuality touch the deepest wounds of humanity. Recent statistics tell us that during the last academic year 614 young women became pregnant while in secondary school. The consequences were likely more than they could have anticipated. Embar­rassment, loss of favor, academic disappointment, and pro­fessional uncertainty plague single mothers. Some of these young women may have made the impulsive choices of youth. However, it is quite likely that some are the victims of rape, incest, and exploitive teachers and headmasters. To either quickly condemn or seek to simply solve problems by condom distribution misses the complexity of our sexu­ality. Sometimes our sexuality is the place of our deepest wounds. Sometimes the one we judge is the victim.

Lost time is also a painful wound. Kigali seems to be a city full of many who have lost immense time. Many of our stories are ones of not quite getting the opportunity that our raw talent and persistent labor merited. We were the victims of another’s manipulation or exploitation. We were judged unfairly. Gossip stole our reputation. Others made choices that left us as a victim.

If lost time is like lost virginity, where is hope?

A single word comes to mind. Redemption. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as to get or win back, to free from what distresses or harms, to overcome something detrimental, to release from blame or debt, to change for the better, to make good, to offset the bad effect of, and to make worthwhile. The many attempts to define redemption relay how deep our human longing is for second chances.

Bob Marley sang about it. “From the bottom­less pit, but my hand was made strong. By the hand of the Almighty… Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds… Won’t you help to sing these songs of freedom? ‘Cause all I ever have: Re­demption songs.”

Thus I respectfully disagree with the youthful proverb. Our sexuality and our time can be re­deemed. Humanity’s deepest longings can find second chances.

Two old stories of humanity remind us of the truth of redemption. A Hebrew boy named Joseph was once sold into slavery by jealous brothers. For 13 years, his hopes were repeat­edly dashed by others. Then all changed. He transitioned from prisoner to prime minister. Nine years later he saw his father and wept. He discovered his brother’s remorse was more painful than his lost years. Redemption triumphed.

Generations later Israelite intelligence officers chose to visit a prostitute named Rahab. Despite sexual tragedy Rahab was discerning and courageous. Her grandchildren would be kings. Nations and generations would speak with honor of the faith of a prostitute. Redemption triumphed.

In today’s Rwanda we have many stories of redemption. Our streets are filled with those who listen to Bob Marley and live like Joseph and Rahab. The choices of others to us are not our destiny. Our own poor choices are not our destiny. Time and sexuality can be redeemed.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

MASTER POTTER AT CHRIST'S CHURCH IN RWANDA

Dear CCR Family and Friends,

I’ve attended church my whole life. I’ve listened to lots of sermons. I’ve preached lots of sermons. They’ve brought untold good in my life. Yet, I can only remember a handful of sermons that I find myself returning to again and again. The most memorable are the ones with an illustration that takes the deepest truths of God and makes them feel like God is directly shaping one’s life.

About 10 years ago, I had one of those experiences.
A friend of mine, Nancy Harbron was demonstrating pottery and reflecting on Bible texts. In the midst of her pottery demonstration and Bible explanation she shared her personal journey. I was awestruck.

God’s word states, “And yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand. (Isaiah 64:8, New Living Translation)”

Then as people reflected on their journey with God,

“God told Jeremiah, ‘Up on your feet! Go to the potter's house. When you get there, I'll tell you what I have to say.’ So I went to the potter's house, and sure enough, the potter was there, working away at his wheel. Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter would simply start over and use the same clay to make another pot. Then God's Message came to me: ‘Can't I do just as this potter does, people of Israel?’ God's Decree! ‘Watch this potter. In the same way that this potter works his clay, I work on you, (Jeremiah 18:1-6, The Message)”








I’ve felt that way so many times. God shapes us for purposes beyond our understanding. When we are not as He intends by His grace He simply starts over. He never quits working on us.

This Sunday at CCR we’ll have a special treat. We’ve got a potter’s wheel. We’ve got 20 kilos of clay. We’ve got a master potter and bible teacher, Nancy Harbron. I hope you won’t miss this opportunity to see God’s shaping.

Imana ikurinde,

Dave

P.S. Check out Nancy’s website at http://www.peacefulpottery.com/






Monday, November 7, 2011

OUR FAMILY DIGNITY MATTERS


HONORABLE MINISTER, ALOYSIA INYUMBA
Over the last weekend I’ve been reminded of three truths of infinite importance. One, all humanity is by nature full of dignity. Two, our human dig­nity is displayed through the beauty of marriage. Three, children flourish into their full measure of dignity in a family’s love.

I’ve twice had the privilege to meet President Kagame. The second time was during the early days of Christ’s Church in Rwanda (CCR). I asked him what role he foresaw our church could play in Rwanda’s development. He responded to promote human dignity. His suggestion is one of the oldest and most enduring of all time. Our community may have many different interpretations of the Bible. Yet all honest minds must conclude it is a very old document that reflects humanity’s deepest longings. The first description of humanity declared, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27, New Living Translation.)” Promoting human dignity is one of our oldest tasks.

At this past Saturday’s Umuganda we finished the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion’s (MI­GEPROF) Month of the Family. Our Imidugudu is a delightful community. Umuganda is one of my monthly highlights. I will miss friends who enjoy a morning of shared labor and refining discussion.
MIGEPROF’s theme for the month was “Building a family with dignity for sustainable development.” Campaigns have a tendency to speak about an idea and gather enthusiasm. Then when the campaign is over we move on with life. We look for the newest competing campaign to occupy our minds. Only the great ideas endure. This campaign is destined to be one of great­ness. It may only be a whisper in volume, but the substance is transformational.

Moses brings a new revelation of human dignity
Thousands of years ago as nomadic Hebrews wrote their first descriptions of man they chose to argue with the powerful king­doms of the day. Those kingdoms saw humanity as a resource to be exploited. Slavery abounded. Power was what mattered. Through the faith of nomads trapped in slavery a new vision of humanity stirred. Man would never be God, but man’s dignity reflected the nature of God. No one dare exploit a fellow man. As the powerful looked at the beauty of a woman or the strength of a man as another means of economic exploitation or selfish pleasure, the nomads stated this God given dignity and beauty could never be possessed by a fellow man. Freedom is the ex­pression of the belief in human dignity.

It is the reason those of us with gray hair find ourselves smil­ing as we notice the wonder of a young man infatuated by the beauty of a young woman. It is the reason we sacrifice for wed­dings and keep telling the young to wait to open their treasures when our community can give them our full blessing. We know the dignity and beauty of love is best expressed through life long covenants. The old Hebrew nomads would today not un­derstand our culture of our contemporary weddings. Cultures change. Yet, they would instinctively know the dignity of cov­enants.

There were several expected results from MIGEPROF’s such as good inter-household relationships, time for dialogue among family members, good relationships with neighbors, and de­nouncing gender-based violence.

JESUS LOVED WEDDINGS SO MUCH HE CREATED WINE
Religion and philosophy have sought these results for all time. MIGEPROF made it a policy goal. Today’s best research concludes the same. Our community is stronger when couples are married. In the dignity of these covenants gentleness and forgiveness overcome violence. Communication is best when we decide we will be together for life. Children are healthiest when they are raised in a family. (For more reading check out http://www.lovesciencemedia.com/love-science-media/com­mitment-or-lack-thereof-the-trouble-with-shacking-up.html, or http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/september/sci­ence-of-cohabitating.html.)

Some of us think this pursuit of dignity in the institution of a marriage is outdated. Surely, we can discover our soul mate through contempo­rary techniques without the trappings of faith, tradition, and culture. Stanley Hauerwas, an eth­icist at Duke, says, “We always marry the wrong person. The sooner young couples can under­stand that, the better off they’ll be. I hear young couples say, “You mean you don’t want us to be soul mates?” But nobody marries his or her soul mate. You become soul mates by living life together through those years. So often co-habiters are looking, in the first year, for what comes only after years—decades!—of life togeth­er. You are setting yourself up for dramatic disappointment if you think life works that way.”

Minister Inyumba in press conferences stated that building the family is the foundation of the nation. She saw failing fami­lies as the reasons children are on the street or in orphanages. She has taken unfair criticism for a decision to find ways to place children in institutions back to in the foundational institution of humanity – the family. MIGEPROF has pursued the path of dig­nity. Children do not thrive in the care of any institution other than a family. In a family we come back to the oldest truths of humanity. Love is our expression of dignity.

A pastor thousands of years ago wrote about the beauty of this love. “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, New Living Translation).”

There are three truths of infinite importance. One, all human­ity is by nature full of dignity. Two, our human dignity is dis­played through the beauty of marriage. Three, children flourish into their full measure of dignity in a family’s love. Thank you many in our Rwandan community who spent a month remind­ing us of these old truths.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Orphan Sunday Pray ( modified for Christ's Church in Rwanda on Orphan Sunday)



Dear Father,



On this Orphan Sunday, we join with Your people across our country and beyond to

pray for orphans.



We know that love for these precious children begins not with us, but with You. You

pursued us when we were wayward and alone. You adopted us as your children. You

invite us to address you as Daddy and to live as Your sons and daughters. Truly, we

love because You first loved us.



You tell us also that You are near to the downtrodden and destitute. Your heart aches

for children that face the world alone. You champion the cause of those who have no

one else to take their side. And You call us to do the same.



So we pray that You would rouse us to share your heart. We ask that You would stir

Your people to passion and vision and action on behalf of children that have no family.



We lift up to You the millions of children in the world who have lost their parents to

disease, to war, to addiction, to poverty, to abandonment. As You promise to do, place

the lonely in families. Be their defender, their provider, their hope and peace. Help us

to do the same.



We pray also for children in Orphanages here in Rwanda.

So often, they feel disconnected to community, knowing little love, consistency or true

nurture. Please be their love, their consistency, their nurture. Help us to do the

same.



Lord, please be with the child headed households here in Rwanda. Please be their father and mother and use your church to show this.



We pray for the babies that are orphaned in Rwanda through disease,poverty and abandonment. We pray that you provide families for these little ones so they do not have to live as orphans.



We confess that we have often lived with little regard for these precious lives. Please

forgive us. Lead us to take up their cause, not in guilt or obligation, but as a joyful

response to Your great love for us.



Guide us at CCR with Spoken For as we provide temporary and forever homes for these little ones.



As we do, we pray that You would use our humble response to transform. To

transform the lives of countless orphans both physically and spiritually. To transform

us as we encounter You in them. To transform Your Church as we lift our eyes

beyond our own comfort and self-focused religion to live out the painful beauty of the

Gospel.



And finally, to transform a watching world as it catches glimpses of Your love

made visible through the actions of Your people.

We commit all this to You, the One who is both our Father and a Father to the

fatherless, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.