Monday, May 30, 2011


On Monday, 29 May 2011 Gabriel weighed 2.0 kilos (4 pounds and 6 ounces). He's gained 25% of his body weight in 17 days of Jana's care. Here are a couple recent pictures that Sophia took of Gabriel. He's looking great, eating twice as much food as when he came into our home, and able to identify our family members. This is an amazing 17 day testimony to what God does with a vulnerable child in a family.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Yesterday was a historic moment for our family and faith community. Sophia graduated from high school. She received awards and is accepted at her first choice of Wheaton College. We celebrated with friends last night at one of Kigali’s best restaurants. In a few hours our home will be filled with more Kigali teenagers and the celebrations will continue. We shed a few tears, but overall sensed great fulfillment and peace. God has been very good through 13 academic years that Sophia has been in our household. At a moment like this the appropriate faith response is to tell the story. Thus our God is honored and our community’s vision and labor is remembered.

(I’ll forget a few key events and people in this blog and ask forgiveness. This is my best quick attempt to remember key people, places, and events that have shown the hand of God in our daughter’s education.)

In August 1998, I felt pain in my left shoulder that was radiating down my arm. I thought I had pulled a muscle. Then a few days later I started losing feeling in my hand. I cut my hand in the kitchen and though I could see blood could feel no pain. We realized it was time to get back to the US quickly. We landed in Minneapolis as Sophia was supposed to start kindergarten. We had planned on sending her to Heritage International School in Kampala, but all quickly changed. We lived with my parents with three young children and tried to make sense out of our lives. We decided to enroll Sophia in kindergarten in Prior Lake public schools.

Sophia went for her kindergarten screenings and smoked all the tests except for one. For some reason she could not differentiate between the sounds of L and R. We giggled and thanked God for our 6 years in Uganda. (For those unfamiliar with our region’s Bantu languages the consonants L and R are frequently interchangeable and make English a language to laugh at some times in the translated miscommunication.)

I remembered the first days of putting her on a bus with the same vividness that I remember a day two days ago in which I drove her to high school for the last time. At this season, Jana’s mother, Janet Tarbet lived with us. Thus Sophia spent her first four months of education each day coming home to not only her nuclear family, but three grandparents to dote over her kindergarten discoveries.

After, a few months of struggle our health and finances were restored. We returned to Uganda.

As we returned to Uganda our finances were a bit of a struggle and we were unsure if we could afford Heritage. Also, our lives were fully engaged in church planting. School and church calendars sometimes do not easily match. Thus, Jana’s mom, Janet Tarbet taught Sophia the rest of kindergarten.

Jan continued to live with us for another 2 years and also served as the teacher for Caleb and Ethan as we home schooled. We can’t imagine what our children’s lives would have been like without Janet’s sacrifice.

As the season for Jan to leave us came we were fortunate another teacher arose. For the next two years, Jenna Reynolds taught our children. Jenna came to us from Pepperdine University. She brought a level of youthful enthusiasm that can never be replicated. Our family was forever changed for the better by Jenna Reynolds.

During the last year that Jenna taught with us we formed a home school coop with Brent and Inell Slater (missionaries with World Venture), and Dave and Donna Jacobson (missionaries with Missionary Aviation Fellowship). Their children Luke and Garrett Slater and Matthew Jacobson added a delightful mix to our kid’s education experience.

After Jenna left, our kids were taught by Esther Tushabe. We have a picture of Esther teaching our children to dance that is unforgettable. Konge Hill International Academy was a delight for our family.

In 2004 our contract to minister in Uganda came to a close. We did not know what our future held. Thankfully, in one of the few moments God has given us where there was an early window of knowledge, Bob Carpenter from Oklahoma Christian University (OC) called us and asked us to be OC’s Visiting Missionary in the Academic Year 2004-2005. A few years earlier, John Osborne had connected us and after several “almost, but not quite” conversations OC was finally workable.

After a 3 ½ year tour we reached the US to spend 6 weeks with my parents, Lloyd and Lois Jenkins on their retirement home in on Lake Reno Minnesota. It was a wonderful season to restore our bodies, minds, and spirits. We had a concern about where our children would go to school as we knew they needed a gentle landing place for their adjustment back to the US. While we pondered this, Bob Carpenter called us. He had conversations with Deborah Niccum and Oklahoma Christian Academy (OCA) was able to offer our four school age children scholarships. We were thrilled. During our year of re-adjustment at OC, OCA nurtured our children. We will be continually grateful.

(We did another year furlough in 2009-2010 and again the community at Oklahoma Christian Academy blessed our family. We will be forever grateful.)

Then in June 2005 the Rwandan journey began. We enrolled our four school age children in local school thinking, “We’ve lived in this region a long time. We’re seasoned. We can make anything work.” Our children knew better, but it took a few months for common sense to reach me. By October, 2005 the idea of Kigali International Community School (KICS) was formed in Dwight and Brenda Jackson’s living room. Kigali needed an American curriculum Christian International School to make the international faith community sustainable. Also, the Rwandan Diaspora shared many of our philosophic commitments. The dream began.

For another 9 months we planned. In the meantime, Sophia attended another garage based home school coop led by Brenda Jackson.

In September, 2006 KICS began in a Four-bedroom rented home with 26 students. We were blessed that three young teachers caught the vision. Kyla Kiser, Amanda Moore, and Lauren Zumbron were our first test case teachers and they were remarkable. Shannon Miller volunteered along with Sharon Barclay. Belinda Bauman was our first Headmistress for just two months, but she gave KICS the foundation of Faith, Integrity, and Excellence.

Brenda Jackson reluctantly followed Belinda. Brenda did it all - Teacher, Headmistress, and Cook. KICS has never seen a laborer both so flexible and servant hearted.

In these early months, an opportunity arose that made us question our own sanity. A school and hall facility was available that could hold over 200 students and whose asking price was $1,560,000. Our family had never been associated with such a fund raising project. Also, our dream of starting Christ’s Church in Rwanda (CCR) now had legal opportunity. But it came with an instruction from Rwanda’s Ministry of Local Government (MINALOC) to develop property. It seemed to us that this dream facility may be the answer, but we were scared to dream. The Quail Springs Church of Christ in Oklahoma City sent two of their elders, Tom Gooch and Larry Schwab plus Tom’s wife Sue to survey the opportunity. Sue summed it all up in one memorable poke at me, “Dave quit jumping over open gates.”

A few weeks later our family was back in Oklahoma. A few months after arrival in Oklahoma, Rwanda Outreach and Community Partners (ROC Partners) was formed. The decision was made that CCR and KICS future would lie in this property. Six Oklahoma friends began to raise $1,356,000. We would be tested and tried. We would rediscover our ideals of unity and revival. We would never be the same.

Steve Clark and Mike O’Neal negotiated the deal with Henry Gaperi at Caisse Sociale Rwanda (Social Security Fund of Rwanda – CSR or SSFR) in February, 2007. On March 4, 2007 CCR began to worship in the property. On April 15, 2007 KICS moved to the property and her attendance boosted to 45 students.

Kigali was hungry for an American curriculum international school. Some turmoil followed, but God was faithful.

Bryan and Holly Hixson joined us in August 2007. Holly brought a Ph.D. Chemist to KICS. Bryan labored much like Brenda Jackson. He did it all from building maintenance to providing stabilizing leadership as the KICS Board Chairman.

The Mission Community provided many quality board members such as Jan Rossington from African Inland Mission, Colin Godwin from Canadian Baptist Mission, Eddie Mwunvaneza from Canadian Evangelical Free Mission, Tim Brubaker from World Venture, Kelly Sager from the International Mission Board and Mark Thiesen from Wellspring Foundation. Also, there were key board members from Christian Non-Government organizations such as Dwight Jackson from Food for the Hungry (Procom), Steve Bauman from World Relief, Dabbs and Mary Cavin from Opportunity Bank, and Dr. Laurent and Chantal Mbanda from Compassion International. Chantal Karungi provided much needed leadership from the Rwandan community when KICS needed stable voices in the community who owned the vision.

In a season where KICS needed stabilization in administration from strong Christians she was graced by Headmaster, Trevor Maxwell and his wife, Roberta plus Mark and Lisa Sudman.

It is dangerous to list teachers and others as I know many will be lost. However, God always exceeds our failings and commands us to treat one another with honor. Matt Nash provided great spiritual nurture the last year as KICS chaplain. His wife, Jeana gave much needed guidance for academic matters.

Rebekah Lewis nurtured Sophia’s love for literature and writing. Micki Seger nurtured her art skills. Elizabeth Janeczko nurtured Sophia’s desire to incorporate her faith into political and social action. Elizabeth more so than any other pushed the envelope of understanding of faith outside of cultural norms so faith can thoroughly engage one’s culture. Barba Bennett nurtured Sophia's musical ability and we are confident Sophia's success in last year's musical at OCA was because of Barb's nurture. Mala Marivel taught Sophia French this year and we're very thankful. Ann Zahniser was a key volunteer teacher who significantly improved the quality of KICS Biology teaching. Virginia Helwig also was a key volunteer teacher Art teacher who nurtured Sophia's passion for the arts.

Time after time our community gave of themselves to make KICS a place where God was honored and children nurtured.

Though KICS has been blessed by a board, administrators, and teachers who have labored tirelessly her greatest asset is her students. As we watched Sophia join eight other graduates last night I thanked God for each one and the friendships their parents gave our family.

Andrew Rwigamba and Paul Jabo shared a Kigali porch conversation with me when KICS was just an idea and their families needed a new academic option. Their daughters Doreen Rwigamba and Nicole Kayigora will always be a key part of our lives.

So as I watched Sophia cross the stage, receive awards for leadership and academic excellence, and finally receive her high school graduation, the congratulatory messages of friends seemed inadequate to express our wonder at this experience. Twelve years ago, Sophia’s academic experience began a few weeks after blood came from my hand and we journeyed home for healing. Sophia has been nurtured by a community. Our legacy institution will likely be KICS. KICS was born in the prayers of Dwight and Brenda Jackson and nurtured by many in community. May this community hear our appreciation.

May God be praised. From the seasons of wounds to homeschooling by a grandmother, God has provided in an immense way for Sophia’s education. Thank you God. Thank you our faith community.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


When we began CCR in 2007 our fundamental commitments to our community were,

“Throughout all of our interaction with our communities we will remember the words of our Lord, ‘Do onto others as you would have them do unto you.’ … The sounds coming from our facility will be the reasonable sounds of Christian joy, the teaching of God’s word, the laughter of playing children, and thoughtful dialogue and debate as our community seeks to find solutions forward.”

The last few months we have been studying the 10 Commandments at CCR. In that study I hope we’ve seen God’s desire to bless a community that lived in covenant with both God and one another. The Old Testament provides a beautiful story of God’s intentions.

Last week we were in Command Number 6, “Be faithful in marriage. (Exodus 20:14. Contemporary English Version.)”

We spent most of our discussion encouraging the young to abstain from sexuality until they were married and for those of us who are married to treasure our marriage covenant.

We noticed that when the 10 Commandments were given Israel was surrounded by sexual chaos (Leviticus 18). In fact, there is nothing new in contemporary Kigali that Israel did not see thousands of years ago.

Because of our CCR Contract with Rwanda we want to finish the discussion about sexuality by addressing a contemporary debate in our region. How should the faith community respond to homosexuality?

A little less than a year ago, I decided to blog about this question when I realized some old friends of mine from Uganda had taken the debate to an extreme position (To see my journey check out:

Since being back in Rwanda I’ve on occasion heard religious leaders discuss these issues.

When I read the New Testament Paul writes,

“Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11. New Living Translation.)”

Thus it seems to me we would be well served at CCR to have a discussion of how the gospel addresses policy debates. I won’t promise to solve all of the complexities, but I do promise that this Sunday you will hear a sermon rooted in the Bible nurtured by pastoring a community.

I hope I will see you this Sunday at CCR.


P.S. Though CCR will continue to have lessons that challenge our thinking and action CCR will also be a place full of joy and celebration. We’re scheduling a special concert on Saturday, 18 June with God’s Army, Next Generation, Christ’s Doves, and Beautiful Ashes.

Friday, May 20, 2011


Dear CCR Family and Friends,

As we near the end of our series on the 10 Commandments I want to share with you a secret. Besides teaching through a set of commands I am trying to show the beauty and dignity of life. The Old Testament paints a marvelous picture of what life can be when a community gives its whole being to God.

The 10 Commandments were given during a historical season of chaos. Israel was a dysfunctional extended family who God chose to become a nation that would bless all of humanity. His purpose in this selection would be shown through Israel’s attempt to display God’s Holiness.

This week we’ll look at Commandment Number 6. “You shall not commit adultery. (Exodus 20:14. New International Version.)”

As God gives this Commandment, He later gives detailed definitions (Exodus 20:16-19; Leviticus 18). Those definitions lead me to conclude that sexually Israel and her neighbors were living in moral chaos. They needed detailed instructions to understand what was sexually right and wrong. If we open our eyes to contemporary Kigali at night I think we would conclude much the same.

Yet, when the detailed instructions and binding command is heard; God calls us back to His intention. Another translation says it this way, “Be faithful in marriage. (Exodus 20:14. Contemporary English Version.)”

We are instructed through command, principle, and detail. However, sometimes what sticks is the poetic. Beauty, dignity, and love are what hold us together. I think in contemporary Kigali both the faith and non-faith messages about sexuality sometimes miss these values. (For more reading see my blog at

Thus this Sunday we will briefly wander into the realm of exceptional Jewish poetry. We’ll look at a book so candid that the Jewish teachers only allowed those over 30 who were married to read it (The Song of Songs or Song of Solomon). If you want to hear how an old command was actually a blessing of beauty, dignity and love I hope you can join us at CCR this Sunday.

The Youth will have their class during First Worship Service (9:30 to 11:00). If you have teenagers I would like to request that this Sunday you allow them to do what some are already doing. They come to CCR around 10:30 to be in the Youth Class then they stay through Second Service (11:30 to 1:00) to be worship and listen to the CCR Sermon.

I hope to see you this Sunday,


P.S. This coming Sunday, 22 May will be the Kigali Peace Marathon which will create a small traffic difficulty in reaching CCR. The Nyarutarama Road will be closed from the Airport Road to the MTN Center. Also, the road that circles Amahoro Stadium and KIE will be closed.
We suggest you take the following routes:

1. From Southern and Western suburbs (such as Kicyukiru, Gikondo, Nyamirambo, and Kiyovu): Pass By Car Wash and then by Utexrwa and the Red Cross.

2. From Kimihurura: Pass by Kacyiru and then by Utexrwa and the Red Cross.

3. From Eastern Suburbs (such as Remera, Kabeza, and Kimironko): Pass by the Kimironko Market and through Kibagabaga.

4. Northern suburbs such as Gisozi and Kagugu should have no problems.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Dear Family and Friends,

God has a delightful way of making us giggle. This month we ask your prayers for some delightful matters to both live and ponder. In January, 2011 our family finally unpacked our container after 5 ½ years of living in Rwanda. In the process of unpacking we gave away or sold almost all of our baby goodies. In February and March we asked for you to pray for a new worship service CCR was launching targeting Kigali young people. We affectionately and metaphorically labeled our new worship experience, the new birth of Umutoni.

On Friday, 13 May 2011; a new child Gabriel Mugisha came into our home. We are not writing metaphorically. Gabriel is a real boy who we believe will bring a message to us. For more information and the earliest photos of Gabriel check out our blog at

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

1. Gabriel Mugisha. May his health be good. May a forever family for him be discovered. May we hear well the message God intends to speak through him.

2. Dave is finishing his grading at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) in the next few weeks.
He did not expect in January to meet so many students. It was a delightful season to lecture with them about Ethics. May the final weeks be one where God is honored.

3. Our oldest daughter, Sophia will be leaving in a few months time to attend university at Wheaton College. We are very proud of her. May the necessary funding for her education be discovered. May God use Sophia in her new setting to bring as much wisdom and blessing to others as she has brought to us the last 18 years.

4. CCR is rapidly growing and Dave is exhausted and overwhelmed in pastoral responsibility. We need to expand leadership
. Please be in prayer about a new ministry paradigm being developed called Silverbacks that hopes to mature CCR through small groups led by those at CCR with gray hair.

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

Imana ikurinde (May the Lord Stay With All of You),

Dave and Jana

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


We’re not writing metaphorically. There is a new baby in our home. His name is Gabriel Mugisha. He was born on 12 March 2011 at 30 weeks into his gestation. At birth he weighed 1.3 kilos (2 pounds and 14 ounces.) He entered our home on Friday, 13 May 2011. At this point he weighed 1.6 kilos (3 pounds and 8 ounces.) This is the story.

For the last several years Christ’s Church in Rwanda leaders have been praying about how to engage Rwanda’s problem with Orphans and Vulnerable Children. With the results of genocide, HIV, and poverty there may be as many as 1,000,000 vulnerable children in Rwanda. Of this number there may be as many as 4,000 in institutional care.

J.I. Packer in his book, "Knowing God", writes, “Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption. Adoption is the highest privilege that the gospel offers.” He draws his thoughts from Scriptures such as:

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children…. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:14-16, 23; New International Version.)”

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship (Galatians 4:4-6; New International Version.)”

“ For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will (Ephesians 1:4-5; New International Version.)”

Thus to our simple reasoning adoption of vulnerable children into families is the best God’s people have to offer. All of us who are part of God’s family were once orphans whom God adopted. Thus our spiritual journey prepares us for the earthly reality of adoption.
Ezekiel described God’s adoption of humanity with these words,

“On the day you were born, no one cared about you. Your umbilical cord was not cut, and you were never washed, rubbed with salt, and wrapped in cloth. No one had the slightest interest in you; no one pitied you or cared for you. On the day you were born, you were unwanted, dumped in a field and left to die.

But I came by and saw you there, helplessly kicking about in your own blood. As you lay there, I said, ‘Live!’ (Ezekiel 16:4-6; New Living Translation)”

When we were like an abandoned child, God looked upon us and said, “You are spoken for.” Thus CCR leaders have concluded our stand must be one of speaking for the most vulnerable and proclaiming with action they are our own children. From biblical conviction we step into the pragmatic world of mystery. We are called to the uncomfortable. We only know our instructions, but few details of the journey. We act much like a child obeying our parents without full understanding. Trust and obedience is the path of discovery.

Rwanda’s Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion (MIGEPROF) has recently begun a policy of de-institutionalizing the care of orphans and vulnerable children. It is a challenging policy. The just of it is to do several things such as prevent children from falling into vulnerable situations, when they do fall into vulnerable situations get them quickly into a home like environment, and finding ways to get children who are in institutions into families. CCR concludes this agenda is one that displays the ultimate truths of God.

But how do we practically proceed? A messenger named Gabriel Mugisha will show us the way.

Roger and Faith Shaw are friends of ours at CCR. They are entrepreneurs, but also care givers to children. Faith was separated from her parents as a small child in Rwanda’s chaos of 1959. During the separation one of our region’s historical figures, Bishop Festo Kivengere provided care. The story lives on as Faith returns the care to many vulnerable children. On Monday, 9 May Faith asked Jana if CCR could provide a home for a child of whom she had become aware.
At this point, Jana and I decided we would be the first ones at CCR to open our home. We understood that the child was a healthy baby girl in the Rwamagana hospital who had been abandoned two months earlier. From our understanding the time had now come for the girl to leave the hospital, but there was no family willing to take the child.

Jana and I made a decision that we would open our home with the assumption that this child may live with us as our child for the rest of our lives. However, it is our hope that our home is a temporary stop in another family’s journey. We hope another will arise to become a permanent family for this child.

On the evening of Thursday, 12 May Jana made plans to go with Faith Shaw and Kellie Van Der Zag to the Rwamagana hospital. Our family realized there was the possibility that the baby may not have a name which would be required to fill out the proper documents. Our family decided on the name, “Malaika” which is Kinyarwanda / Kiswahili for “angel” or “God’s messenger.”
On Friday, 13 May Jana began the journey with Faith and Kellie to Rwamagana. On their way, I began thinking of the need for another name to communicate this child was “Spoken For.” I began trading messages with friends and came up with several possible names such as “Uwacu” meaning “Our Own,” “Uwatowe” meaning “Chosen One,” and “Iranzi” which means, “God knows.”

As a few friends and I were trading messages, Jana called with startling news. Our girl was a boy. She / he was not a full term healthy baby, but born prematurely. She got off the phone.

Another phone call came shortly. What should we name him? In the background I heard group consensus for “Mugisha” which means “A Blessed Boy.” I agreed. Then I quickly added “Gabriel,” “The Strong One of God” who explained to Daniel a visions of historic events (Daniel 8:15-27; 9:20-27), and announced to Mary the coming birth of Jesus (Luke 1:26-38). Thus Gabriel Mugisha was named in a hurry and blessed to be a messenger of God’s people.

He came home and spent his first night with us. We all held him. Some of us had seen children this small in neo-natal intensive care units. None of us had held a child this small. His legs were as small in diameter as my thumb. Our two oldest children, Sophia and Caleb attended the KICS Prom that night, and visitors passed through our home. Gabriel was part of our community. I knew in my heart that I was at least Gabriel’s uncle for life.

Jana shared more of Gabriel’s story. He was born at 30 weeks gestation in a home in rural Rwanda. The following day a woman brought him to the Rwamagana Hospital. The hospital did not have formula and for a short season Gabriel was fed cow’s milk until the Rwamagana Mayor found formula. His ability to survive those first days and weeks testifies to his strength and God’s intentions.

Gabriel enjoyed being held by us. He is easy to comfort. Yet, on that first night he did not seem to hunger for human touch. We worried if he was eating enough. We worried about his health. Yet, we were at peace.

On Saturday morning, Dr. Nathalie Gikic, a CCR member and pediatrician came to check on Gabriel. She found he has a heart murmur, but it may just be part of being a new born and a valve will shortly close. Other than this Gabriel appears healthy. We will do more tests this Thursday, 19 May to find a wider diagnosis of Gabriel’s health.

On Saturday night, Gabriel turned a corner. He realized that he enjoyed human contact. He would only sleep if he was held. He was easy to comfort, but Gabriel chose to express his need for splaxna, the compassion of God shown through human touch. Those who receive splaxna are also the givers of it. Gabriel will be a messenger.

On Sunday, 15 May I spoke to both services at CCR of the 6th Commandment, “No Killing.” The best theologians teach that the Old Testament is a beautiful document that nurtures an extended family into nationhood. In the process the 6th Commandment is fleshed out to mean that we must build communities were children are nurtured and blessed (Leviticus 19:14-17). I told the story of Gabriel Mugisha and proclaimed his future.

I do not know the details. This is God’s. I do know that as long as I and Gabriel Mugisha live our lives will be entwined. I will be his mzee. I may be an uncle figure. I may be a father figure. If the Lord does not return and the Lord gives Gabriel and me life for another 25 to 30 years, Gabriel will meet a girl far more beautiful than he deserves. I will journey with him to meet her family. I will be introduced as his mzee and ponder what Gabriel Mugisha ever did to win the favor of such a beautiful girl. I will sacrifice all for his and her future. Gabriel Mugisha is Spoken For.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


On Monday, 2 May 2011 I was almost as shocked as I was on 11 September 2001. I returned from my early morning run to find my family at our television watching Al Jazeera. The news was clear. Osa­ma Bin Laden had been killed. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Then a moment later I was aghast. Americans were celebrating. Death is no cause to celebrate. The prag­matic politician may argue that to celebrate death in­vites retribution. I am no politician, but I may be a pro­phetic pastor. As such there are principles greater than pragmatism. Life is the greatest value on this earth. Whenever it is lost one must pause. A wake or funeral may be a cel­ebration of life and hope. However, lives taken as measures of justice must never be gloated over.

The emotions of revenge run deeply through our humanity. Even Bible verses contain words crying for revenge such as “Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us. Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks (Psalm 137:8-9).” God is so magnanimous that he can bear to hear all the cries of our heart, even those seek­ing revenge upon children.

Another passage summarized the mis­placed euphoria of my American broth­ers, “When the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy (Proverbs 11:11).”

Yet when God speaks for Himself He proclaims, “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live (Eze­kiel 18:23)?”

Maybe, the reason I find such great offense at cel­ebrating the death of the wicked is that I am preaching through the 10 Commandments at Christ’s Church in Rwanda (CCR). The sixth command is clear, “No kill­ing.” Old Testament commentators argue it prohibits the cycles of revenge killings so common in clan war­fare. The Jewish law saw life as so valuable that the only just punishment for taking life was capital punishment. Yet, the best of Jewish tradition was clear. Death was no cause to celebrate. Celebrating the death of Osama Bin Laden seems far too much like cycles of clan revenge.

Humanity’s greatest philosophers have consistently concluded as we wrestle with ethical dilemmas that we must simply treat others as we desire to be treated.

Allow me to share my memories of being an Ameri­can living outside of America on September 11. A Ugan­dan friend called me as she heard news on the radio of American tragedy. I turned on my TV to see on CNN as the second tower went down. I felt fear. I immediately called my parents to make sure my mom was safe and not in a public place. Then I knew within my spirit that my younger brother who serves in the US Marine Corp would soon be leaving home. For the last 10 years he and his comrades have been in my daily prayers.

My friends from various nations and faiths offered their condolences. These friends included Arabs and members of the Muslim faith. In fact, my Arab and Muslim friends surprised me with their magnanimity. As my seasons of life continued in the Great Lakes Re­gion I found that at several key times when courage, generosity, kindness, and truth were deeply needed by my community it was my Muslim friends who first showed these marks of God.

I also remember watching on CNN as some cheered seeing thousands of innocent civilians die on September 11. I remember seeing Osama Bin Laden T-Shirts rapidly sell in the city I called home. I remember young people who saw Osama Bin Laden as a hero. They shouted insults at me as my morning run took me past their hang outs. I do not remember the feeling of fear, but of profound sadness that young had come to hate with such passion.

Thus as I listen to the words of my master, “Treat others as you want to be treated,” I cannot celebrate the death of the wicked. To do so is hateful re­venge. The cycles of revenge have no place in healing the wounds of injustice. Death is no cause to celebrate.

I am not alone in these convictions among Americans. Martin Luther King Jr. summarized our thoughts well, “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness can­not drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that”

Death is no cause to celebrate.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


This Sunday at CCR our teaching will address the very pragmatic. Why do we have those irritating speed bumps in front of CCR? I can’t imagine it has not been the topic of discussion for any who have been in the Caisse Sociale – Gaculiro Estate the last few months.

Christianity sometimes has a reputation for not being practical. Other times it has a reputation for lots of religious hype, but little ethical substance. The consequences of both a lack of sound practice and ethics are disastrous.

CCR is studying the 10 Commandments and this Sunday we will finish looking at Commandment Number 6, ““No killing.” (Exodus 20:13).” In doing so we’ll do with another practical issue. How do we manage property to protect life?

Kigali is a city on the move. If you are gone from Kigali for a few months sometimes it is hard to recognize her when you return. There are new roads, homes, and buildings. Nothing stays the same. We’re in a delightful season of growth and opportunity.

Yet, with that growth comes the temptation to take short cuts, make some easy extra income, and speed along to our desired results. We’re a city in a hurry.

Sometimes we drive too fast. Sometimes we build too fast. Sometimes we build to save money, but create infra-structure that will collapse.

We live in a city full of children. Our short cuts and speed risk their future. God is clear, “‘Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:16).”

I hope you can join us this Sunday as we think though how to build Kigali to protect life.


P.S. If you would like to read more of my thinking on those CCR speed bumps check out

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Dear CCR Family and Friends,

I am sorry that I have not sent you a message earlier this week in preparation for this coming Sunday. I believe this Sunday, 8 May will be one of the most delightful worship experiences in some time at CCR. I would hate for you to miss it.

The text we will be discussing is “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12 - New Living Translation) ”

On Sunday, 3 April we discussed this text in a panel led by my friends – Collin Muhozi Kakiza, John Kayihura, Joshua Mburaga, Arthur Mugaga, Eddie Mwunvaneza, and Brett Shreck. I had never experienced anything at CCR like that Sunday. It was raining hard, and people kept coming to hear these men tell the stories of their fathers with honor. When it was all over I saw people embracing and celebrating God’s providence through generations.

A couple of you offered a criticism. Why were there no women on the panel?

We did not exclude women intentionally.
Instead, many of the women at CCR were gone on a Women’s Retreat. Thus this Sunday we want to go back and allow some delightful women to tell the stories of their mothers with honor. We will have another panel led by my wife, Jana. The panelists will be Onawa Linden, Jackie Kakiza, Anita Nkusi, Faith Shaw, Anita Umuhire, and Kellie Van Der Zag.

Besides this panel CCR will give a rose to each mum at CCR this Sunday.

I hope you will be able to join us,


P.S. We’ve done a little editing of Eugene Peterson’s, The Message Translation of Proverbs 31:10-31 to guide our thoughts. If you would like to see how we’ve read this text to shape our discussion check out my blog at

PROVERBS 31:10-31 (The Message with Christ's Church in Rwanda edits) - SONG TO A GREAT MUM

A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than all the diamonds in Congo.

Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it.

Never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long.

She shops around for the best kitenge, and enjoys sewing.

She's like a plane that travels to Dubai and brings back exotic surprises.

She's up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day.

She looks over a plot and buys it, then, with money she's put aside, plants a garden.

First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.

She senses the worth of her work, is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.

She's skilled in the crafts of home and kitchen, diligent in hospitality.

She's quick to assist anyone in need, reaches out to help the poor.

She doesn't worry about her family when it rains and becomes cold;
their jackets are all mended and ready to wear.

She makes her own clothing, and dresses in colorful kitenge.

Her husband is greatly respected when he deliberates with the bzee.

She designs wedding gowns and sells them to the wedding shops.

Her clothes are well-made and elegant, and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.

When she speaks she has something wise to say, and she always says it kindly.

She keeps an eye on her household staff, and keeps them all busy and productive.

Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise:

"Many women have done wonderful things, but you've outclassed them all!"

Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised
is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-GOD.

Give her everything she deserves! Shower her life with flowers of praises!


My oldest daughter, Sophia and I at the Nile, Uganda, 1993
I sit as a strange teller of stories. I was not in Rwan­da in 1994. However, I was next door in Uganda with Banyar­wanda friends. My memories of those days have never left.

Last year, I told some of my memo­ries. Another one came to mind a few months ago. It is one that I am ashamed did not trigger outrage in 1993. I remember, regret, and repent. I just did a Google search and am confident though my memory is true, it would be difficult to document. If I do not leave a record of my memory I strip victims of their dig­nity. Truth heals and it must be told.

One of the weapons of genocide was rape. Such brutality is not the nature of man as an image bearer of God. Such bru­tality must be nurtured with hateful my­thology. Only when man’s eyes are blind­ed by hate can one destroy the daughters of men.

Jesus cleansing the temple
One of my acts of repentance is to hold a prophetic stand. I seek out places where I can speak publicly so that I will never be silent when God’s people must speak. Thus I seek out friendships in the media. However, the history of Rwanda’s media has left me so troubled that I must seek to understand and wrestle with my motiva­tion. A few months ago, I found a must read book, The Media and the Rwanda Genocide by Allan Thompson and Kofi Annan. I picked it up to judge my motives. In the process I found a chapter on media and sexual violence written by Binaifer Nowrojee. My best summary of the chapter is that Batutsi women carried a sexual mystique that was hated. Thus the haters found justification for horrific rapes. A similar article is Why Rape Was a Key Part of Genocide in Rwanda of the Center on Law and Globalization.

Jesus feet washed (Luke 7:36-50)
As I read the chapter, I remembered an article I read in 1993 in Uganda’s independent newspaper, The Monitor. At the time, The Monitor was just getting off the ground. Sometimes its articles were cultural nonsense and gos­sip designed to sell newspapers. Sometimes these played to stereotypes. The article I remember was on the sexual prowess on the women of various Ugandan ethnic groups. It started in Uganda’s east and worked its way west. It had the tone of dorm room humor mixed with academic re­search. I suspect the author was in his twenties. As it started with the Sabei on Mount Elgon it made the case that due to Female Genital Mutilation the Sabei women had little sexual prowess. It made comments about women in vari­ous ethnic groups in Uganda. Its conclusion was about the great sexual prowess of Batutsi, Rwandan refugee women living in Uganda. It even discussed the genital anatomical details of Rwandan women compared to Ugandan women. I do not remember the author’s name or his sources, but I am confident of my memory.

In reading The Media and the Rwanda Genocide, I real­ized I had once read hate literature that seemed almost academic while in reality being pornographic. I remem­ber, regret, and repent.

Seventeen years ago, I should have been outraged and sent a letter to The Monitor editors.

Alexis Hixson and my daughter, Ruth
How do I display my repentance today? First, it is personal. My daughters are now beau­tiful young women with beautiful young Banyarwanda women as their friends. They are all daughters of men and children of God. As such they are all worthy of respect. A sin against my Banyarwanda women friends is a sin against the humanity of all. I cannot lose my empathy.

Second, history is a great teacher. A few months ago, I found a book from 1948 in a Rwanda missionary library called The New Congo by Tom Marvel. It details the story of an American traveling through Belgium’s African colonies. Like many of us when he reaches Rwanda he is stunned. He made one prophetic commentary that I can never forget. He was convinced that the colonial enterprise was leading Rwanda towards disaster. His biggest concern was that young Banyarwanda women were not receiving quality educa­tion. He predicted without Banyarwanda women being educated Rwanda’s future would be tragic. There are many reasons for Rwanda’s tragic history, but the non-literacy of many Banyarwanda women must be factored in as a significant one.

Women were the first to see Resurrected Jesus
My understanding of Rwanda pre-colonial history is that women served as the unifier's of society with great leadership capacity. With a colonial system that marginal­ized women and a post-colonial media that treated them as subjects to sexually exploit, disaster was imminent.

Thus today I cheer loudly for all Rwandan women I know who succeed as students, entrepreneurs, and lead­ers. Their dignity must be guarded. Their voices must be heard.

Last, my repentance means I must be a participant and advocate for all academic and business enterprises in my influence who give extra opportunities for women. I should never assume “girls are not good at math and sci­ence,” or “business and politics is too rough.”

My delayed outrage is delayed repentance. May my voice for Banyarwanda women be simply one of many that say, “Never again.”