Thursday, March 31, 2011


African history is known for two unforgettable virtues. Audacity and Forgiveness. Only on the rarest of moments are they combined. However, those moments are unforgettable. This past Sunday, I asked two questions of our CCR audience.

First, “How many can recognize the name, Hannibal, General of Carthage?

Second, “How many can recognize the name, Joseph, son of Jacob, Prime Minister of Egypt?”

Both CCR services found that three times as many people recognized the name of Joseph as compared to Hannibal. Both were audacious men. They were extremely bold and daring. They were not restricted to prior ideas and conventions. They faced the unknown with great initiative and resourcefulness.

Hannibal faced the might of Ancient Rome’s military and took his army and their elephants over the mountains of the Alps. Military historians have marveled at his audacity. He used the strength of his institution, the Carthage Army to make one of history’s most spectacular raids.

Yet, another in Africa did something even more audacious. Joseph, son of Jacob was sold as a slave by his brothers. For 13 years he lived as either a prisoner or slave. Then in a surprise turn of events he became Egypt’s Prime Minister. He had 22 years to plan and plot his revenge. However, instead of exacting revenge he used the strength of his institution, the Egyptian government to forgive. His forgiveness reconciled, restored, and rescued. His audacious forgiveness is remembered as one of the humanity’s stories that must be repeated time after time, generation after generation.

Approximately 400 years after Joseph’s audacious forgiveness God led Israel out of slavery in Egypt. In this wilderness journey God gave them a new law. This law was to transform them from a large dysfunctional extended family into a nation who taught all other nations to honor God. They were commanded to practice the beauty of a Sabbath rhythm. This rhythm reached its final triumph every 50 years in the Jubilee. On this sacred year, God commanded Israel they must forgive institutionally (Leviticus 25:8-555). It is an audacious command.

Meg Guillebaud taught us well about the Sabbath Year and the environment. For six years Israel planted and harvested. Then on the seventh year (Sabbath Year) the land was to rest (Exodus 23:10-11. Leviticus 25:1-7).

After seven of these cycles (49 years), on the fiftieth (50th) year a Jubilee Year was proclaimed. The community had met to grief over sin and resolve to change their behavior. They fasted and rested on this Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:1-34). Then the loud music and party began. The trumpet was blown. Freedom was proclaimed.

Israel’s economic system had similarities to the surrounding nations. When someone was in debt they first sold their clan’s land. Then when their property was all gone they sold themselves. On the Jubilee the debt prisoners were freed. The land was returned to the clan. Extended families gathered and celebrated.

For two years the land and people rested. They lived on the bounty of stored food and the produce of the land.

Three thousand five hundred years later though we can never repeat this ritual I believe we all hunger for such a time where we rest, celebrate with our closest family and friends, and get a chance to start life a fresh.

We cannot replicate this command, but we can practice enduring Jubilee principles. I see five enduring principles.

First, our business dealings must be noted for truth, equity, and justice (25:14). Some will look at Jubilee and see it as a way to get an unfair advantage. That completely goes against the commands to tell the truth in all our documentation (Exodus 20:16). Also, the Sabbath command means we must be equitable to all despite gender, ethnic, or economic differences (Exodus 20:10). At our best we are motivated by principles such as hope, joy, and love. However, at our worst we are motivated by the fear of God. We must never lose this fear (Leviticus 25:17).

Second, the Jubilee reminds us we must care for our extended family. When they are in trouble those of us who have means must come to their rescue (25:25). For some of us today, our extended families are still our social network. Others of us have lived through seasons of history where our extended family is no longer our security net. For our faith community, the church is our extended family. I believe the implication of this command is that the church must care for the most vulnerable of society.

Third, Jubilee reminds us that nothing on this earth is really “mine.” We are all refugees (25:23). We began to use the “mine” pronoun as soon as we can speak. Whatever our mother tongue we proclaim, “wange.” God instructs Israel to remember. They were refugees for 400 years. They know what it is like to have no possessions; especially one’s freedom. They must never lose their ability to empathize. The Jubilee reminds us that our possessions are only an entrusted stewardship from God.

Fourth, work is honorable and no one should be treated as a slave (25:40). The wealthy were never to abuse those who were poor. In our context I find this very relevant. Many of us as children were refugees. We saw our parents deprived of legal status and economic opportunities that would have allowed them to succeed. Practically, they were treated as slaves. Now, many of us have landed in a place where though we have a good income we still need those to labor for us; and the wages in which we pay them are still less than ideal. We may desire to change the economic reality, but the means to do so is not in our circle of influence. What is in our influence is that we can treat our working class laborers with honor. We can give them time to rest. We can treat them with dignity. We can practice Jubilee.

Last, Jubilee reminds us that at least once per lifetime the only way to make things right is to forgive institutionally. We must use the strength of our institutions to do what is truly audacious. Particularly, when our institutions are young and maturing we find that sometimes we have to say, “This is a mess that cannot be made right by anything other than forgiveness.”

Let me confess one of my many sins. I have been sinned against in great ways by my historical denomination. When I wrestled with this with an open Bible I found some comforting texts. For instance, the Old Testament required restitution (Exodus 22-23). In the New Testament, when Zacchaeus was transformed by Jesus’ forgiveness his repentance included making restitution by four fold. Paul seems to allude to this principle of restitution in restoring the fallen (2 Corinthians 7:10-12). Even the 12 Steps Program requires for one to recover from addiction he must make amends to all who ones behavior has harmed. As I wrestled with the consequence of others sins in my life I became an accountant. I tabulated what they would need to do to restore what they had taken.

Then something startling happened. It was much like Joseph’s experience. I realized without all of the painful actions of others I never would have developed the character, skills, or network that allows me to bless others. How could I resent the capacity God had given me to bless through others poor choices? It was time for me to practice Jubilee. I had to use my institutional strength to forgive.

As we move past the command and come to history we discover just how audacious the Jubilee command is. There is no historical record of Israel taking a Jubilee year. There is one historical record of Israel taking a Sabbath Year (1 Maccabees 6:49). Most conclude the Jubilee command required more audacious courage, faith, and humility than Israel could muster. Jesus likely referred to the Jubilee when He proclaimed His mission to liberate humanity from sin and its consequences (Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:17-19).

I’ve found this Jubilee command especially applicable to Rwanda. My understanding from reading is that in pre-colonial Rwanda during periods of famine those who were poor would take a position similar to Old Testament Israel. They would become the possession of another family to survive. Maybe, an English translation of the practice could be “indentured servant.” Some might consider this slavery. However, the situation does not seem to be permanent for generations. Frequently the one indebted would arise and be incorporated into the extended family where they landed. It also still seems clear that though Rwanda sought like many to find economic solutions to poverty and chaos Rwanda did not like her neighbors trade her poor to others as slaves. (Slavery in the Great Lakes Region of East Africa, Henri Medard and, Shane Doyle.)

About 20 years ago a movement started called the Jubilee movement. It was started by those who saw this command and believed the modern application was that the poor indebted nations could only arise from poverty by Jubilee. The institution must be used to forgive debt. It was promoted by both believers and non-believers. It was discussed in meetings from the N.G.O. to donor to embassy communities.

Rwanda was a particularly troubling case. During the war, the government who plotted genocide borrowed money that was later used to perpetrate genocide. Rwanda’s Minister of Finance following liberation, Dr. Donald Kaberuka with great dignity voiced that since the debt was a debt of a sovereign government it must be paid. However, many of us felt that justice could not stomach paying the debt of genocide. As time and discussions passed much of Rwanda’s institutional debt was forgiven. The Jubilee command was practiced. Justice was restored. (For further reading see:

Now the question arises of “moral hazard.” If the risk is taken away from borrowing some may misuse their loans. They assume that their debt will be forgiven. Thus they manipulate forgiveness. They turn a beautiful gift into an ugly weapon. It seems the Jubilee speaks directly to this. Our business dealings must be noted for truth, equity, and justice (25:14). We cannot devalue forgiveness by assuming it is a tool to manipulate.

It is the same for grace. Paul writes that some will attempt to take advantage of grace (Romans 6). Forgiveness is risky. Yet, forgiveness is transformational. Without an understanding of both our individual and communal sin we have no capacity to practice audacious forgiveness. Without audacious forgiveness our community cannot be healed. Without this healing of grace our institutions cannot grow to be just. Without these two paradoxical values of justice and grace we are condemned to cycles of frustration and destruction. Thus audacious forgiveness must be institutional.

May history remember us for practicing this old African virtue of audacious forgiveness in our generation.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


The Nigerian conman internet stalking me is at it again. Following is his most recent attempt.

I am willing to offer the following rewards to any who can either physically capture him or stop his stalking:

1. If my KIST students can find a way to neutralize his behavior I’ll do some negotiating on the due date and marking scheme for Friday’s Assignment. His e-mail address is and this is no April Fool’s Joke.

2. If a handsome and godly young man is able to neutralize his behavior I will provide a chaperoned date with my daughter.

3. If you are not interested in either of these rewards we’ll provide the best Tex-Mex Fajita Meal followed up by Homemade Apple Pie in the Great Lakes Region.

Sorry, I am unable to provide:

1. Indulgences from sin. Try another church or pastor.

2. Scholarship opportunities to study overseas. I’m just a negotiator and facilitator, but have no real authority.

3. A bride. You’ll still need to earn a young woman’s love and put a herd of cows in my crawl.

Pastor (Which means I’m good at placing my hands on thieves) Dave Jenkins


Nigerian Conman,

If you are reading this blog I suggest you look at the following web site concerning what my ancestors did to a group of outlaws a few years ago. The photo at the top of my blog is of one of the surviving outlaws after my ancestors captured him.

I grew up eating pickled fish, hunting ducks and deer, watching the Vikings play football, and reading the stories of the Lakota Uprising and the failed James-Younger raid on Northfield Minnesota. Nigerian conman I dare you to get physically close to me.

Pastor (Which means I’m good at placing my hands on thieves) Dave Jenkins


Tom, So, sorry. It looks like you are being scammed. I have absolutely no involvement in this apartment rental. Last month a Nigerian conman ran a similar scam. I posted on my blog so people were aware, and sent him an ornery couple e-mails and it seemed to stop. Can you direct me to the link? Maybe, I can contact the administrator and we can shut him down?



My wife and I are Missionaries with YWAM and are looking for an apartment in Manhattan. Below is the reply we got from one of the adds we responded to. You might be being used to scam people. If this is a real deal, then we are REALLY interested.


Tom Skarnas YWAM Manhattan

"This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." Ps. 118:24

----- Forwarded Message ----- From: "Past. dave Jenkins" To: Date: Tue, 29 Mar 2011 14:47:40 -0700 (PDT) Subject: Re: apt on craigs list Message-ID: <> References: <>

Good Day, My apartment is still available for rent. But i want you to know that i am renting my apartment out at a low price because i am only interested in you taking great care of the apartment and not the financial aspect of it. I am currently in Africa on an assignment by my church and i am currently being transferred to Nigeria from Rwanda where i have been serving for a while now. I wanted to sell the apartment before but my wife and i have decided that renting it out would be better for us. I want you to know that you can stay in the apartment as long as you would like to stay as we are not planning on moving back into the apartment when we return to the states. But we would be checking up on you once in a while to ensure that the apartment is well taken cared of.

The address of my apartment is: 150 Columbus Avenue, New York NY 10023 Rent Fees: Rent Per Month: $1000 (Including Utilities) Security Deposit: $700 (Refundable) APARTMENT FEATURES: Large 2 Bdrms 2.5 Baths Large Living Room High Ceilings Stainless Steel Appliances Formal Dining Room Hardwood Floors Brand New Cabinets, Electric Cooker, dish washer & Refrigerator Washer, Heater and Dryer in the apartment I would like you to fill the below details:


Thursday, March 24, 2011


On Friday, 4 March CCR hosted Uganda Dance Troupe “God’s Army” and Rwandan Dance Troupe “Jaba Juniors.” We were absolutely full and had a blast. Over the next week I heard several friends visiting with others about the wonderful time. I also overheard people disappointed that they were not able to come. CCR hopes to continue to offer top entertainment each month. I do not want you to miss out on our next opportunity.

This Sunday, 27 March at 6:00 p.m. we will have another opportunity. Amani Egide will launch his second album, “GRACE OF GOD.” I hope you will be able to attend.

Amani summarized his hopes for the evening by saying, “I can’t wait to see what God is going to do on this day, I’m not only eager to see people dancing, enjoying music only but feeling the spirit of God moving in the midst of us, we are ready to give good music but we are praying God to give us good spirit and to touch every one of us, and we hope that all of you reading this are going to be part of this, as you take your time and pay for this you are making it successful.”

I will look forward to seeing you this Sunday evening.


P.S. For more information check out:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Dear CCR Family and Friends,

This Sunday we’ll be looking at one of the most audacious commands of God – Forgiveness Must Be Institutionalized (Leviticus 25:8-55).

Let me make this personal. I am a romantic idealist who when I meet reality struggle with cynicism. I love reading history to understand the present and find vision for the future. I’m fascinated by those historical figures who took bold and audacious actions. My biggest hero is Yahweh, God. Three thousand five hundred years ago, He commanded Israel to forgive on an institutional basis at least once per lifetime (Leviticus 25:8-55). It seems no nation ever had the courage to follow the command. I suspect humanity has suffered for generations because of our lack of courage.

We’ve journeyed for a month at CCR discussing the Sabbath. Religious rule keepers have probably not known what to think of our discussion. Sabbath living liberates us from man’s control.

Some of us who claim to follow Jesus miss the beauty of this Jewish tradition. Somehow, we think grace frees us from Sabbath. Instead, grace frees us from the ridiculous nature of rule keeping. Sabbath is for our good. Thus we should feel free to heal, rescue, and live with joy on our Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-13; Luke 13:10-17).

Two Sundays ago, Meg Guillebaud spoke to us about Sabbath keeping as a command to care for the environment (Exodus 23:10-11. Leviticus 25:1-7.)

Last Sunday, we applied the Sabbath in the areas of gender, economic, and national equity.

This Sunday, we’ll discuss the Jubilee Year. God commanded Israel that every 50 years the nation was to rest, all debts were to be forgiven, and economic prisoners set free. Our times have significantly changed since that command. However, I think we will find that the nature of humanity has not. I’ve even noticed the Rwandan history books I’m reading show remarkable similarity between Pre-Exilic Israel and Pre-Colonial Rwanda. Humanity even in our best efforts neglects justice and mercy. Sometimes our best attempts only create more problems. God commands that in such circumstances the only option is to completely wipe the slate clean.

I suspect each one of us has moments in life when we wish we could just start all over, go home to our extended family, rest, and celebrate. This Sunday at CCR we’ll see if an old command can still be applied. No nation in history ever had the courage to embrace this command. I feel honored to be able to preach this sermon on Audacious Forgiveness in Rwanda.

I hope to see you this Sunday,


P.S. If you would like to read notes from last Sunday’s sermon on rhythm and gender equity check out my blog at

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


For those who missed CCR last Sunday or wish CCR had a functional web site and pod cast let me give you a quick overview. This Sunday our Sabbath discussion took us to the crux of the matter. We could summarize the issue in ONE COMMAND – HUSBAND; GET ME ANOTHER CUP OF TEA!!!

You see the text clearly states, “On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. (Exodus 20:10, NIV). Every living being in a society must respect this old Jewish way of doing business except one person – the spouse.

Just follow the text closely. There is a “You” meaning “Me.” Since, wives generally read their

bible more than husbands they apply it to themselves. Husbands are excluded. Then sons and daughters, household staff, animals, and even foreign guests (whether refugees or V.I.P.’s) are mentioned. They are all commanded to practice Sabbath. It would be impossible for a family to function if everyone took a day off. Therefore someone must work 24/7.

CCR’s best theological mind (my wife, Jana) concluded the 24/7 person is the husband. Therefore, she commands, “HUSBAND; GET ME ANOTHER CUP OF TEA!” Her interpretation is rock solid.

Seriously, we human beings have been screwing up God’s gift of Sabbath for thousands of years. This week our Sabbath discussion took us to the Sabbath principle of Equity.

We’ve spent several weeks journeying with an old story of God transforming a dysfunctional extended family into a nation. In order to do this they must develop a Code of Conduct and System of Law. They spend over 400 years living as exiles in Egypt. Then when their cousins; the Hyksos make war on Egypt they are first enslaved, and later suffer genocide. However, God is not finished with Israel. He sees their situation, remembers His covenant with their fathers, and calls Moses. When Moses is ready to listen he has been a herder of livestock for 40 years after a disappointing attempt at being a leader. Calls are tough. Moses resists, but then relents. He returns to Egypt and miracles happen. Egypt releases Israel from slavery. Then they gather to worship and listen at a mountain in the desert.

Yahweh introduces himself as a King. He speaks and intends to be heard. He describes himself as “I AM” – The One who has always existed and defines all of life throughout eternity. While Israel has heard stories of “the god of our fathers,” Yahweh becomes personal. He states, “I AM, your God.” History is no longer irrelevant. In fact, Yahweh reminds Israel of their experience. They have been called, “out of Egypt and out of a life of slavery. (Exodus 20:1, 2)”

For those of us reading the story 3,500 years later it should remind us that God still speaks to us today in seasons of turmoil. If we grew up with godly parents or grandparents listening to stories of faith that seemed irrelevant to our Post-Modern thinking, God will speak anew. He does not want us to define our relationship with Him simply as “my heritage.” He wants us. When our life becomes one of slavery whether the form is religious rule keeping or cycles of addiction; His intent is our freedom.

It is no wonder than that as He gives us our freedom in wilderness lands He becomes a jealous lover who will tolerate no rival (Exodus 20:5-7). Deep down we all want a relationship with one person and one God that is full of jealousy. We want to be possessed in such a way that there is one who no matter what will always treasure us, and run to rescue and sustain us. Thus Yahweh commands as a means of blessing.

He states, Remember that the Sabbath Day belongs to me. In six days I made the sky, the earth, the oceans, and everything in them, but on the seventh day I rested. That's why I made the Sabbath a special day that belongs to me. (Exodus 20:8-11. Contemporary English Version.)”

God’s nature is reflected in pace and rhythm. Good dancing music has a moment of quiet rest. Have you ever been at a David Crowder concert and he waits 34 painful seconds until he starts playing? As we rest God prepares our spirits to celebrate and participate in God’s creative enterprises.

There are ancient documents similar to the 10 Commandments, but this command to rest is only Yahweh’s. He knew we needed this stillness. It requires trust that God will provide. It also requires humility to acknowledge that it does not all depend upon us.

We religious people turn the beauty of this sacred rest into a rule sometimes. In the process we miss the whole point of Sabbath. Sabbath living liberates us from man’s control. Some of us who claim to follow Jesus also miss the beauty of this Jewish tradition. Somehow, we think grace frees us from Sabbath. Instead, grace frees us from the ridiculous nature of rule keeping. Sabbath is for our good. Thus we should feel free to heal, rescue, and live with joy on our Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-13; Luke 13:10-17).

In our previous week, Meg Guillebaud spoke to us about Sabbath keeping as a command to care for the environment (Exodus 23:10-11. Leviticus 25:1-7.)

Last Sunday, we applied the Sabbath in equity. Our nature tends to extremes. One may play all the time. Another may labor all the time. God commands all to both labor and rest for His glory. In the process we learn to steward the environment, forgive in community, worship, and create a new. While there is equity in application there are different functions and sanctified common sense.

Sabbath teaches us Gender Equity as there are no differences in application of work standards. It teaches Economic Equity as there is no difference between employee and employer (Galatians 3:28). Sabbath shocks us with its view of Creation. Even livestock is to rest.

Then whether one is a VIP or refugee we hear the Sabbath standard. We practice Sabbath so “the foreigner living among you may be refreshed (Exodus 23:12, NIV).” To empathize with the foreigner we are told, Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:15, NIV).”

So for the real point of this past Sunday’s sermon – Everyone take time to rest in community. Enjoy your coffee and tea.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


If you have functional eyes in Kigali you have seen the latest condom advert. A beautiful young couple gazes at you. She holds a condom in her hand. The message states clearly, “PROTECT YOUR LIFE WITH A CONDOM. PROTECTING ONESELF AND OTHERS AGAINST HIV/AIDS IS EVERYONE’S RESPONSIBILITY. I CHOOSE TO USE CONDOMS; WHAT ABOUT YOU?”

Ministry of Health, The Global Fund, and the Rwanda Health Communication Center; thank you for your message. Besides protecting life you gave me hours worth of delightful discussions on university campuses. We conclude that of all that exists on this earth the supreme value is life. Therefore, our taxes are well served by messages that save life.

However, there are other lesser values. Three quickly come to mind – beauty, dignity, and love. These are the substance that our grandparents hungered for when they counseled us to save our sexuality for marriage. The bzee really were wise. You see in the condom advert reality is shown. The young woman is missing a tooth. Something happened. Let me share my best pastoral guess. The following story is no specific individual’s, but the collection of 26 years of pastorally listening to young couples.

The young woman grew up in a home without a father, uncle, or older brother. Her mom and sisters were good people. However, they were vulnerable. As a little girl she watched her friends with fathers, and she hungered for a man to provide, protect, and nurture her. When she was in secondary school she discovered her beauty. She found that by offering her body to a young man she could have intimacy. She had several boyfriends. However, the sexuality was always clumsy, awkward, and a bit shameful. The relationships all ended with bitterness. When she visited with her girlfriends about her old boyfriends, she used the word, “a#+*>@^!!” to describe them.

The young man grew up the first born son of a polygamous father. Initially, he carried all the family hopes. However, his dad found other women besides his mother. In the end he became the forgotten son. Before his dad left he watched his parents argue. The argument ended when his dad slapped his mom and walked out of the home for the last time. He told himself he would never do that to a woman. He wrestled inside with seeking a complete family. In secondary school he thrived as he was clever, handsome, athletic, and sociable. He had several girlfriends. Like the young woman the sexuality was clumsy, awkward, and a bit shameful. Also, like her the relationships all ended with bitterness. When he visited with his boyfriends about his old girlfriends, he used the word, “b#+*>@^!!” to describe them.

Our young couple met at university. They both did well at university. Her beauty made every young man notice her when she entered a room. His athleticism and charisma had the same effect on young women. They spent 3 years exploring relationships, having fun, growing their minds; but still having sexual relationships that ended in bitterness. Then they started dating and found new hope.

Jesus meeting a woman in Samaria who lived with 6 different men (John 4)
Last year, Minister Murigande gave them an unintended and regrettable gift. The living bursary was removed. With their dysfunctional family backgrounds they had no extended family to help. Both found casual jobs, but could not quite make enough to live. Then they had the idea of their life. If they lived in the same room they could save money and be almost like the family for which they hungered. Their families were too removed to care. They had not been in church for years. Their friends cheered for them. With free condoms on campus she could avoid pregnancy, and both of them would have no risk of a sexually transmitted disease.

For one month, they had the time of their lives. By living together their shame and sexual secrets disappeared. They slept, bathed, and ate together. They had the best sex of their lives frequently. They lived simple, but they were not hungry. Their friends noticed how often they were gathering the condoms at the distributors, and were exceedingly jealous. She was not pregnant. Neither of them had a sexually transmitted disease. Graduation was coming shortly and their lives were full of hope.

Then all changed. One day she did poorly on an exam while he lost his casual job. When they came home their attempts to console one another had just the opposite effects. Their relationship was full of youthful passion. Now the passion stirred the opposite way. They argued. They blamed one another. They called one another names. Finally, he had his limit. No woman would speak to him with that level of disrespect. He slapped her in the mouth. As soon as his hand hit her mouth out flew a tooth and blood. He had never seen the effect of his strength used in violence. All stopped. She cried. He felt guilt beyond measure. He had just done what he had promised his mother never to do. In the quiet moment, they gathered their remaining francs. They went to a clinic on the other side of town hoping no one they knew would see them. Their shame remained. She was not pregnant. Neither of them had a sexually transmitted disease. She no longer had a tooth.

What were they to do? A thin piece of plastic protects one from unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. It protects life. However, it offers no protection for beauty, dignity, and love. Those values were now fleeting. Beauty, dignity, and love were what they hungered for.

Kigali’s most recent condom ad got it right. A sexual relationship without a covenant made in community frequently  leads to violence. This is what our grandparents knew and why they counseled us in ages past to wait.

However, Rwanda has another story. Though she is a young nation she has bzee. There are those who have wisdom to balance forgiveness with accountability. This young couple needs to do what they have not done in years. Their life still can have hope. It is time for them to visit the gray haired unorthodox professor who calls his past student’s friends. It is time to go to church and be the last to leave as they seek a pastor’s counsel. The bzee are here. Though her tooth is gone, hope is not lost.

Monday, March 14, 2011


For those who have not been following my battle with ghost students check out a previous Focus column at

After 6 weeks of enduring me as a lecturer all my classes except one put away their ghost habits. For the last several weeks, I’ve been attempting to fulfill my promise. I’ve sent letters to friends of mine at KIST, SFAR, and MINEDUC asking for them to address the structural root causes of ghosting. Some dialogue is going on, but I do not know the outcome. It did seem to me since I’ve made a portion of this discussion a public one I should put some of my thoughts in public.

Let me start by sharing the reasons I lecture at KIST. First, I just like university students. I rarely smile as often as when I am on campus. Two, I’m a romantic idealist who at times struggles with cynicism. I screwed up years ago when I first saw KIST. I first visited KIST in 1999 while visiting Rwandan friends from Uganda. I giggled when no one was looking at what seemed to be an unrealistic vision. When I visited Rwanda again in 2004 I saw the reality of KIST and needed to apologize. In the process of my apologies I became a volunteer lecturer. Repentance is liberating. After our grief God gives joy and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each time I’ve been on the KIST campus.

Next let me state why I find ghosting to be such a big issue. Ghosting is in direct violation of KIST’s Mission which states at point 9: To contribute to the cultural, civic and moral training of its students and to participate actively in the economic and socio-cultural development of the country. To ignore ghosting simply throws away the mission of KIST for convenience sake.

Practically, the costs of ghosts are significant both for KIST student’s individual future and our community at large. I am only a pastor with almost no power in my hands. However, the place where I have landed is one of influence. I have the privilege of being a facilitator for the Presidential Scholars program which has created opportunities for KIST graduates to complete Masters Degrees in Engineering. My role in this area is simply a bridge between friends. If I find that a friend is not being honest to another it creates a climate of academic distrust. Such a climate diminishes the possibilities of future scholarships. I also receive one to several phone calls per month of potential employers seeking trustworthy employees. I could not recommend to potential employers students who are dishonest with me in academic matters. Finally, I believe Rwanda’s future will include the building of infra-structure such as roads, bridges, schools, and places of work. Future engineers who resist honesty and accountability are likely to build sub-standard infra-structure. Practically, this means they choose to gamble with human life.

A consistent theme the student’s raised was the issue of a cancelled bursary. Due to the cancellation of the bursary many students are working jobs and not able to attend all their classes. Thus some students sign missing students into class lists. This matter at first seemed rather simple. Just re-instate the bursary and the students would quit ghosting. However, as honest dialogue continued all ghosting classes admitted that they had practiced ghosts in the academic years in which they had a full bursary. Thus ghosting was a long standing bad habit which may have become the character of some. Blaming the cancelled bursary was not dealing completely with the root cause. My students simply had no right to complain about either attendance policies or a cancelled bursary while they practiced dishonesty.

As we addressed the issue of ghost students in class we used Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." In this letter Dr. King wrote, “there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action.”

Thus I asked the students to first deal with the issue of self-purification. All of my classes except one eliminated ghosts. Thus I believe their voices should be heard.

Another writer, Jim Collins in his book, "Good to Great", states, “Confront the brutal facts, yet never lose hope.” Thus I believe it is now right to confront the structure that created the climate for ghost students. In this confrontation hope, faith, and love must guide us.

Certain matters are obvious. Some students are suffering. Some share a single lunch among three friends. Others have health problems that are not adequately addressed.

Yet, they also showed remarkable resilience. Some were starting their own businesses and thriving. Others were teaching at local schools. Some were tutoring younger students. Many had found humble jobs. Within many students there was a strong desire to succeed that should be encouraged. Many of the jobs they are working builds Rwanda’s 2020 Vision. Thus I notice a great contradiction as students who are resilient and visionary are penalized for truth telling.

My concern became that instead of honest dialogue, resiliency, and sound work ethics being affirmed; the academic structure was actually encouraging a culture of denial and deception. The long term results could be disastrous. Thus I would like to offer the following suggestions:

1. Moses, Jesus of Nazareth, and the Apostle Paul all seemed to consistently teach that the best motivation comes from within one’s self. Sometimes those of us who come from Balokole churches so mystify this that we miss the practicalities of how to motivate internally. All three of these men cast a vision of both an individual’s and a community’s future based upon today’s behavior.

Thus I began keeping a file of classes who eliminated ghosts. I labeled this file, “RECOMMEND FOR JOBS.” As a pastor I will likely hire 2 to 5 KIST graduates in the next few years to do some building projects about which I am praying. I also usually receive several phone calls per month from potential employers seeking honest young employees. Thus in a good year I may be able to help as many as 25 people find a job. Though this is only about 4% of my total students, it did seem that most wanted their name in this file. I asked for the students to begin adding their phone numbers and e-mail contacts to the attendance list. If there were no ghosts on the attendance list at the end of class period that classes names and contacts went into my file, “RECOMMEND FOR JOBS.” By casting a vision for a future built with a good reputation many students chose to eliminate ghosts.

I do not believe I am the only one capable of seeking to motivate people from their internal character with a hope for the future. I recommend that the academic institutions first seek to build character united around hope.

2. As I became a father, my mother pulled me aside and told me her primary parenting technique. It was, “Always make the right choice, the easiest choice.” Her belief was that there would come times in which leadership required a “no.” However, those times should be few so that they were spoken with great moral authority. She believed that if the systems were built so that the right choice was the easiest one it would create a culture of respect and civility

Thus I think KIST would be well served to simply drop the 85% attendance policy immediately. I think it is unreasonable to expect young adults who are working a variety of jobs to be able to attend so frequently without a bursary. The practical result of this unreasonable policy has been a culture of duplicity and denial that seems to be practiced by both lecturers and students.

3. The academic standards at KIST need to be raised based upon principles and performance. A key academic principle is honesty. It is too easy to seek to raise academic standards by just creating another policy (rule) when the root cause is not addressed.

Academic rigor must be applied to both students and faculty members. I was shocked to find out that many students have only been caught ghosting once or twice before when it seemed to a common practice. One of their consistent themes was that ghost students have been created by ghost lecturers who did not arrive on time to lecture. My experience as both a past student and lecturer is that classes will be filled by students when they believe they are listening to a prepared and passionate lecturer. Thus KIST would likely have fewer ghost students if the quality of lecturer improved.

However, this is a double edged sword. My students may cheer for my position to cease the 85% attendance policy and my counsel to hold lecturers accountable to come to class on time and provide exceptional lectures. I also would advise that the students concern about academic excellence be applied rigorously to their academic performance. Many universities do not require student attendance. They simply allow students to make choices and create climates where those who cannot compete fail. My advice is to build KIST upon the principle of academic honesty. Therefore create policies that lead to honesty and remove policies that lead to dishonesty. While doing so allow the natural academic consequences to happen.

The end product will be that a KIST degree is seen both in Rwanda and in our region as a degree of excellence. Thus it will be marketable both for employers and graduate programs. Tolerance or enabling of ghosting will create just the opposite consequence. KIST graduates will be perceived as lacking in both character and competence.

4. I acknowledge I have almost no knowledge of the details of MINEDUC’s budget. I also acknowledge that I have not missed a meal like many students so my ability to empathize with them is limited. The recommendation that I would like to make would actually upset some students though I still consider myself to be their advocate.

It appears that the MINEDUC budget is strained with UPE. I also noticed that the most assertive and resilient students are already using their skills to do things such as teach or build infra-structure. In the 1930’s in the United States during the economic Depression, the US government took unemployed people and sent them to work building infra-structure.

Would it be possible in 2012 to cease the bursary arrangement and substitute it with a work / study program? Also, could the tertiary academic schedule be modified so that classes are taught in modules? Thus it would be easier for one to work for a certain period of time and then attend school for another time period.

Some examples of how this could work include things like engineering students spending several months building schools, roads, and other infra-structure. They would be well served to not only learn things like surveying, but actually lay bricks, mix cement, pound nails, wire electricity, etc… Thus they would learn the character of humility, resilience, and perseverance while sharpening their future leadership and professional skills. Other examples could be for students to teach at local primary and secondary schools. Most of us who teach find that teaching forces us to master information that while we remain in the student mode rarely completely happens.

Thank you for taking your time to read my long letter. I hope I am not unduly troubling you. Instead it is my hope that by raising the issue of ghost students and seeking a community solution Rwanda’s vision will endure. In areas in which my opinions are only arrogance and cynicism I ask forgiveness and for my community to show me a better way.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Dear CCR Family and Friends,

Thank you for all the support many of you gave us last Sunday as we launched a Second worship service. If you would like to see photos of the event please check out our Christ’s Church in Rwanda Facebook page at!/pages/Christs-Church-Rwanda-CCR/184432588265529.

This week we will continue our journey through the 10 Commandments with a special guest speaker, Meg Guillebaud. I hope you will not miss the opportunity to hear from Meg. Some of you may not know her, but I consider her to be a source of great wisdom. She is a third-generation missionary, born in Burundi and brought up in Rwanda. Her grandfather, Harold Guillebaud, translated the New Testament into Kinyarwanda. Meg’s father, Peter, started the work of Scripture Union in Rwanda. In 1995, Meg returned to Rwanda with her parents who were then both aged 80. She based in Byumba, and worked with the Anglican Church to train church leaders. She has written several books such as Rwanda: The Land God Forgot?: Revival, Genocide, and Hope; and After the Locusts: How Costly Forgiveness Is Restoring Rwanda's Stolen Years.

Meg is currently working to develop an eco-tourism site on the Rugezi Wetland and has great insight into the Christian’s responsibility to the environment.

As we explore the Fourth Commandment’s instruction to live life with rhythm we read:

“Plant and harvest your crops for six years, but let the land be renewed and lie uncultivated during the seventh year. Then let the poor among you harvest whatever grows on its own. Leave the rest for wild animals to eat. The same applies to your vineyards and olive groves. (Exodus 23:10-11. New Living Translation)


"The Land Will Observe a Sabbath to God …. When you enter the land which I am going to give you, the land will observe a Sabbath to GOD. Sow your fields, prune your vineyards, and take in your harvests for six years. But the seventh year the land will take a Sabbath of complete and total rest, a Sabbath to GOD; you will not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Don't reap what grows of itself; don't harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land gets a year of complete and total rest. (Leviticus 25:1-7. The Message.)”

We are commanded to pace life so the environment is preserved for future generations. I trust Meg will broaden our understanding and inspire our labor. Meg will speak in both our first service at 9:30 and our second service at 11:30.

During our second service we will also have another opportunity for those wishing to do more Bible Study. Roger Shaw will show and discuss “The Truth Project.”

I hope to see you this Sunday at CCR.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Our family along with the leadership of Christ’s Church in Rwanda (CCR) proudly announces the successful birth of our newest daughter, Umutoni.

She entered the world at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, 6 March.

Her sister older sister, Namulindwa was with us for the event. Namulindwa continues to grow. Three hundred and twenty six individuals were with Namulindwa at 9:30 a.m.

Umutoni already is substantive. Two hundred and six individuals graced her birth celebrations.

Thank you for your prayers for CCR and our family through this season. We are exhausted, but very thankful. Now after a bit of rest we’ll begin the process of nurturing Umutoni’s growth.

Dave and Jana

P.S. This Sunday we experienced the successful birth of a Second Worship Service at CCR with 206 in attendance. Our First Worship Service had 326 in attendance.

P.S.S. To see photos of CCR’s newest birth check out our CCR Facebook page at!/pages/Christs-Church-Rwanda-CCR/184432588265529

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Dear CCR Family and Friends,

Our CCR 4 Year Anniversary Sunday is this Sunday, 6 March. I hope you will attend. We will remember the goodness of the Lord the last 4 years and birth a new service.

Last week, CCR was full of people and we must begin a second worship experience to meet the needs of growth. Thus this coming Sunday, 6 March will be the beginning of our second service.

Our first worship service will begin at 9:30, and continue to offer children’s classes during our sermon time. Also, the worship style will be a little lower in volume with a mixture of vernacular, contemporary music, and traditional hymns.

Our second worship experience will begin at 11:30, and not offer children’s classes. The worship style will be a little louder and faster paced.

Between our two services there will be a reception from 11:00 to 11:30 in which complimentary cake, coffee, and tea will be served. We hope you will be able to join us for this special Sunday.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Dear Family and Friends,

March 2011 marks 18 years that the Jenkins clan has been in Africa. So much has changed since our initial arrival at the Entebbe, Uganda airport. Dave remembers the wires holding light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, and thinking, “What on earth have we gotten ourselves into?” We’ve made lots of friends and collected many experiences.

Our life in Africa has not been without struggle, but there is something delightful in our journey here. Our experiences have been so much like Joseph’s as we exclaim, "Don't be afraid. Do I act for God? Don't you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now—life for many people
. (Genesis 50:19-21. The Message.)

Last month a conman was using our blog to mislead innocent New York apartment seekers. We sent out a message to warn family and friends. In the process our blog had its busiest month. Also, the conman reminded us of the reasons we so much enjoy Rwanda. We choose Rwanda and choose to invest in her leaders. (To read more check out our blog at

When we were in graduate school at Abilene Christian University, Gailyn Van Rheenen remarked that for many missionaries it takes about 7 years to adapt and find one’s niche. That was our Uganda experience of discovering a niche in ministering to “thought leaders.” It also seems like after almost 6 years in Rwanda we are now starting to find the niches where we are most fruitful.

This month we ask for your prayers about the following matters:

1. Dave has thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity for the last 7 weeks to lecture on Ethics at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST).
He was surprised at the number of students (over 625) in his five classes. We took this as an abundant answer to our prayer for CCR to develop a campus ministry. While lecturing the issue of the day became ghost students. Now Dave needs wisdom to properly address the issue of ghost students with academic authorities. We ask your prayers for wisdom.

2. CCR will launch our second worship service called Umutoni on Sunday, 6 March. We are as nervous as expectant parents.
Our minds are racing and it seems we’ll never be ready. May God go far beyond us. May He prepare seekers to come. May His glory be seen in this new birth. (To remember our birth announcement check out:

3. We’re now in the countdown mode for Sophia’s graduation. We can’t believe she’ll soon be off to university. We still have many unknowns from where she will attend school, to how we’ll pay for her education, to how we’ll survive without her in our home. We ask your prayers as God leads our family through this transition.

4. Jana last week traveled to Nairobi to research Transitional Babies Homes.
Next week, she and Sophia will be in Kampala researching Uganda’s Transitional Babies Homes. We sense that God desires for CCR to take a leap forward in faith to be a facilitator of the De-institutionalization of Rwanda’s Orphans and Vulnerable Children. May God give us abundant wisdom.

Thank you for your prayers, support, and encouragement which sustain our family and ministry.

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

Dave and Jana


Last week, I received three e-mails in which we realized that a conman in Nigeria was using my blog as a means to deceive potential apartment seekers in New York. I went from concerned, to outraged, to thankful. When I sent out a mass mail to warn family and friends there were many responses. Also, my blog had more traffic than ever before. For some reason this odd experience struck a chord. As I sat a bit I realized that this conman exposed the very reasons that I choose Rwanda and choose to invest in leadership. I hope you will continue to join me.


There are many images of Africa. Some are disastrous. Non-literacy. Poverty. Disease. Corruption. Famine. War. For some in the Aid industry they are marketing tools. For some in the media industry they are familiar themes to boost ratings. Also, for portions of Africa they are true images. I have lived in places in Africa in which hope was crushed by staggering corruption. Last week’s conman played to these images. The conman succeed because we expect Africa to be a disaster. Also, we quickly joined a chorus and giggled because the theme of African conmen on the internet was familiar. This con was just a new twist to an old one that had previously cluttered our inboxes.

I believe there is another story to be told. I choose Rwanda. She is a beautiful nation. Her soil is rich. Her geography ranges from savannahs to rainforests to wetlands to lakes to mountains. Her history is rich. The history is both inspiring and tragic. Her faith story has impacted sub-Saharan Africa for generations.

Her recent years have been full of hope. Her leaders labor at a pace that leaves me exhausted. Their vision is inspiring. I am thankful to be a participant. Each day I see new construction. New roads, schools, homes, and businesses surround me.

Her youth are delightful. I find myself smiling and giggling each time I am privileged to be with them.

Something unique is happening here. It reminds me of Paul’s instructions to a young church developer, “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4. New Living Translation.)”

Our family has had a remarkably peaceful time in our 5 years in Rwanda. Paul tells us to pray for leaders so we can live quietly. In such a climate the gospel becomes a source that sustains generations. We settle down and build. Let me tell three brief recent stories of life in Rwanda. Our friendly conman reminded me of just how much I enjoy life here.

A little over a month ago, I was in a minor auto accident. My previous experiences with police in Africa had taught me not to trust African justice. In this situation I made a surprising instinctual decision. I chose to seek out the police and trust for justice to arrive. (The experience became this week’s Focus column. If you want to read more check out

A little less than a month ago local elections were held in Rwanda. I again did something surprising. I got up early, drove to CCR, and helped set up the sound system for elections taking place across the street. I am not a Rwanda citizen and did not vote. However, I walked into the assembly, greeted friends, prayed, and wished the best for our community. In a nutshell – I acted the way a pastor should in a democracy. Later that evening I was at the Rwanda Development Board Dinner. An expatriate friend asked about my day and was a bit surprised that I left my home to help. He had been taught that “foreigners” should keep a low profile during African elections. For years I had agreed with the counsel. I never thought about it, but Rwanda had changed both my mind and my actions. I felt no fear that day and was thankful to help.

A few days ago; my son, Timothy and I went in the evening to meet Jana on her flight back from Nairobi. Her flight was delayed. We bought some ice cream and sat the airport cafe. I got just a little bored and remembered a newspaper in our truck. I left Timothy eating ice cream and walked about 75 meters to the truck to get my newspaper. Timothy was out of my sight for a couple minutes, but he enjoyed the ice cream; and I trusted the people near us.
I’ve said this theme many times, but Kigali reminds me much of the stories I heard from my grandparent’s generation. There is a sense of trust, hope, and community here that I have found very rare. I choose Rwanda.


Our helpful conman reminded me of another choice. He played to a theme of helplessness. Again, this is the image of the Aid industry, western media, and far too many missionary types. To be perfectly honest I no longer in good conscience can fill my blog, newsletters, and stateside presentations with sad or hungry children. My photo opportunities are rather limited. I just like being with my friends. If someone takes a snap shot and tags us on Facebook I am happy. My friends are not opportunities. They are people. I like them. They are leaders. I choose leadership.

My years in a previous assignment were ones where I made many mistakes. Then a light bulb went on. It happened as Jana and I were doing radio. We heard the term, “thought leaders,” and were transformed. In fact, it seemed we discovered that the spiritual gift God gave us was to make friends with the upwardly mobile and talk to them about Jesus. Thankfully, those who nurtured our discovery were not power mongers. They just hungered for influence in the midst of humility. They wanted their lives to count and have meaning. We realized this too was our calling. Thus we entered Rwanda determined God’s leading meant we would invest in leadership.

Others may choose to see crisis. We see opportunity. Some may see helplessness. We search for those who desire to build. Our photos have smiles of both those with gray hair smiling and children laughing. Joy is our reward. Even when we engage the most vulnerable, we do so believing in the image of God displayed in each human life. Dignity is our choice. We choose leadership.

Thus we’ve planted a church among those we call “thought leaders” from our media days. Others call them “nation builders” as they survey history and seek to understand the present. We’ve also put our hands to the building of an international school so other building family’s children can thrive. We’ve made friends with any who could help, but carried little power. By these old methods of prayer and friendship God has used our hands to help hundreds of Rwanda’s brightest minds attend universities in the U.S.

Lately, I’ve been teaching Ethics at a local university. It has been delightful. The students remind me too much of myself even in their struggles. They are eager to listen, question, and think. When faced with a struggle they seek an answer. A few wallow in self-pity, but many build. They work extra jobs, cover for friends, and live in community. They learn new skills. They restore my hope in humanity. I choose leadership.

Our conman friend neglected these truths as he used my blog as bait. Today, he’s reminded me of these great truths. I hope you’ll join me on this journey. Choose Rwanda. Choose leadership.