Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Every Sunday at CCR I hope you will bring two items – an open Bible and a pen. I hope you’ll come ready to take notes and then because God works best in a community help us refine our thinking and practice. This Sunday I want your feedback. I’m going to lay out a beginning proposal for CCR to begin care for the most vulnerable orphan children in Rwanda. If you follow CCR and my writing you’ve seen the journey.

On 17 March, 2009 I wrote an article for Rwanda Dispatch entitled, “What About Vulnerable Children?” (To see the article check out http://jenkinsinrwanda.blogspot.com/2010/04/what-about-vulnerable-children-rwanda.html.)

I argued that many attempts to deal with vulnerable children were more of an effort to meet one’s emotional needs. I acknowledged that I did not have this dilemma figured out. However, if the issue is not decisively addressed it will become an economic disaster for our future hopes. The only answer I saw was in the development of three institutions – families, schools, and businesses.

On Sunday, 7 November CCR joined other churches around the world as participants in Orphan Sunday. (To see my reflections on that Sunday check out http://jenkinsinrwanda.blogspot.com/2010/11/pastoral-reflections-on-orphan-sunday.html.)

We had a deep sense that God would move within CCR to address this issue, but at the same time did not know exactly what that would be.

My wife, Jana gathered people for months to pray. We’ve had discussions with other organizations. We’ve read our bibles. We’ve listened.

I sense the time has come for me to make a proposal that Jana and I have wrestled with called, “Spoken For.” I’ve shared it with our other CCR leaders and they agree the time has come to put the proposal before all of you.

As CCR is a Bible based church I will start with a review of what we’ve in the past studied. One of the predominant metaphors of God’s relationship with us in the Bible is of Adoption. Old Testament Theology describes God as both an Adoptive Mother and Father. In Isaiah 49:15 in the New Living Translation, God speaks, “Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!” God compares His relationship to Israel to an adoptive mother. We instinctually believe that a mother could never abandon a child she had produced which nursed at her own breasts, but the reality of our world knows that children are abandoned. In fact, we in God’s eyes are all like these children. As we are abandoned, God as an adoptive mother takes us in and refuses to forget us.

The Old Testament metaphor was also spoken in Ezekiel 16:4-7. The New Living Translation states, 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!’ And I helped you to thrive like a plant in the field. You grew up and became a beautiful jewel.”

New Testament Theology offers the same powerful metaphor of Adoption. 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: higher than even justification.”

He gathers his thoughts from the following Scriptures:

• “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.” (Romans 8:15, NIV)”

“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 8:23,NIV)”

• “The people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. (Romans 9:4,NIV)”

• “To redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. (Galatians 4:5, NIV)”

“He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. (Ephesians 1:5, NIV)”

The image of Adoption is clear and pervasive in the New Testament. The Holy Spirit breathes freedom into our lives. When we come to Christ we are set free from slavery and fear. We become God’s adopted children. As such we cry to Him with the first babbling words of a child, and He hears us with a Father’s love. The Holy Spirit causes this inward groaning for adoption. These words of Adoption are not new, for Israel was adopted as the Children of God. They had the covenants and promise that led to glory. In the eternal plans of God before even creation began God intended to adopt us as His children and found great pleasure in our inclusion in His household.

A few have heard my teaching on orphans and asked why I have not spent more time with the commands to care for orphans. You are right. Let me mention one. James 1:27 in the New Living Translation states, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”

When it all comes down the purity of our faith we display our sincerity by two matters. One, we care for the most vulnerable particularly orphans and widows. Two, in that process we must resist with all our might allowing the world to corrupt us.

In this sermon I’ll share a few pastoral secrets. The first one is that I will immediately not trust someone who introduces themselves as leading an orphan’s ministry. I have lived in this region for 18 years and I have seen time after time where orphans have been a ploy for great levels of corruption. The scam works like this – Take photos of poor children, write letters abroad with the photos to stir donor guilt, take the money, don’t address the core problems, put some of the money in your pocket, and continue the cycle. For some reason those who care for orphans become some of the most corrupt masqueraders of messengers of Christ that can be found. I’m resistant to orphan’s programs because I’m resistant to corruption in the name of Jesus. As CCR moves forward on the Spoken For Proposal I resolve to keep the program from becoming one that fuels corruption.

Our context cries for honest answers.
Some believe that of Rwanda’s approximately 10 million people there may be 1,000,000 children in vulnerable situations. I do not know the current statistics, but the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion in 2004 told me that 13% of Rwanda’s households were headed by children. There appear to be 200,000 double orphans with no father or mother in Rwanda. Many of these are cared for in some way by their extended family or community. However, there are between 2,000 and 4,000 children in orphanages in Rwanda.

Both God’s Word and contemporary research are clear. We are designed for community. Children thrive in a family. They are not designed to live in an institution as a project.
In fact, some research shows that for every three months that a child lives in an institution he falls one month behind his peers in development.

In November 2010 some of us went to a seminar hosted by MIGEPROF (The Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion) that began their policy of de-institutionalization. It is the intent of the Government of Rwanda for vulnerable children who are in institutions to be placed in families.

Yet just de-institutionalizing children from institutions will not solve the problem. On Friday, 15 July New Times ran an article on a child who was abandoned by his 17 year old mother. Police Spokesman, Supt. Theos Badege stated, “About 39 child-abuse cases which include infanticide, abandonment and abortion were reported in the last three months. If you are incapable of raising the child you conceived, you may seek assistance from family members. The government also has the responsibility of taking care of these children if their parents have no capacity to do so,” (http://www.newtimes.co.rw/index.php?issue=14687&article=43230.)

If you do the math it appears that in our own CCR district of Gasabo about 3 children are abandoned per week. What should we do?

The Spoken For Proposal is for CCR to begin a ministry to foster children who fall into vulnerable situations with the intent of finding permanent adoptive families for them if no extended family members are identified.

With all sermons that have been preached from the days man began to speak about the discovery of God a phenomenon has happened. When they are over they create gossip. Some of it is good. People can’t contain what they’ve heard and have to tell others. Some of it is bad. The cost of following God is too high. Instead of being refined by God some murmur about the preacher. In the best of this world of gossip some gather after the sermon and ask questions and refine the thinking. I hope this sermon and message will stir gossip in Kigali. I hope that in the next few days to weeks we will not be able to contain our discussions.

In that I want this message to be clear. My hope for CCR is that that when a child falls into a vulnerable situation government authorities will call our leadership. We will have a list of families who are ready to take a child. We’ll meet the immediate need. Then we’ll work with officials to find a long term solution for vulnerable children to be placed into an adoptive family if we are unable to find extended family members of the child.

Some may ask, “Why CCR and not just encourage individual families? After all, we have many heroic families in our midst who are making extra-ordinary efforts to care for their extended family members. Also, we have some families who have chosen to adopt or are considering adoption. Why does this need the full institutional strength of CCR?”

Paul writes in Romans 12 and in 1 Corinthians 12 to 14 that the church is the Body of Christ. As such no individual possesses all the required gifts. We need one another to display the full glory of Christ and to become all He intends. Thus I advocate making this proposal a CCR ministry with our full institutional strength because a community simply has more resources and wisdom than any individual.

Some may ask, “What is Fostering?” I found this definition from a legal website. Fostering is when a child comes into the home on an emergency, short term or long term basis. It is that immediate first response home. It does not entail the child receiving the full adoptive rights, but is a place of safety in which the child is nurtured in a home until a long term solution can be found.

How does this differ from adoption? Adoption is when a child becomes legally a permanent member of the family with full rights and adoptive parents have full parental responsibility for the child.

Some are thinking, “What type of families would qualify?” The details are not all worked out. We will consult with legal experts, social workers, and MIGEPROF. However, they will be screened, stable, and faithful married couples. Practically, they will likely range from their late twenties to their mid 50’s.

Now let me tell you my second pastoral secret. We count many things each week at CCR. We do this to discern, plan, and be accountable. You probably know that we count the contribution each week. We also count attendance, and even count to see how many children and youth are in each age group. We also do a count that an old missionary in Nairobi once told me was the most important count for a church – How many cars are in the parking lot? You see the car count tells us how many are so captivated by the CCR vision that they will travel to participate. It tells us the economic resources of those attending. It may even reflect their ability to spread godly gossip. On most Sundays we have between 40 and 60 cars parked at CCR. Before I began preaching I counted cars. We had 40 in first service and 9 in our second worship service. With those car counts we know that today there are 49 family units at CCR who economically are able to foster a child. There may be other reasons why they cannot foster a child and it may be a great stretch, but they can find the economic resources to make room for a child in a vulnerable situation.

Some of you may not be at a point in life where you would not qualify to be a foster or adoptive family. You may be asking, “In this Spoken For Proposal what would be my role if I am too ‘single,’ or ‘young?’” We need the strength of your youth. Watch. Serve. Be mentored. A Biblical example is of Moses’ sister, Miriam in Exodus 2.

I am 44 years old. God has been kind and I am physically stronger than most men my age. Yet, when I have a newborn at home it is simply more painful to lose sleep than it was when I was in my 20’s. For those of you a bit older I bet you feel this way even more. Our family would be delighted for those younger than ourselves to come over to our home and say, “Mzee, get some sleep. I’ll watch the baby.”

Also, let me share another pastoral secret. Girls like boys who like babies. Those raised in a good home can instinctually find the young man who will be a good father. If you desire to marry a young woman more beautiful than you deserve start good habits now. Find a man with gray hair who is good with children and follow him. Ask to help him at every point possible. Use this season to develop the skills that will make you a good father.

Others may say, “I am too ‘old.’” We need your wisdom and nurture. Several Scriptures quickly come to mind. In Ruth 4:13-22, Ruth’s new child Obed was placed in his grandmother, Naomi’s lap and she responded by blessing him. A similar event happens in Luke 2:21-40 in which Simeon and Anna bless the baby Jesus. CCR is a young church. Those of you who may be too old for fostering are so much needed by our young families for your nurture.

CCR is also a mobile congregation. Some of us are here for only a few weeks to months. You do not have the time to settle and care for a foster or adoptive child in Rwanda. If you are on a journey that has landed briefly in Rwanda we need you to tell this story. Go like the missionaries of old to all the places in which God has carried you with this message of godly gossip – CCR is beginning a ministry called Spoken For to place the most vulnerable abandoned children in families. Please partner with CCR in this endeavor.

This sermon is only a starting point. It leaves many unanswered questions. It exposes many ministry needs. We need our church community’s refinement. Here are some questions in which we need your help.

What do we need to do to get our government documentation all together? I wanted to preach this sermon after I had completely answered this question. Then I realized that this was a matter that our community must discover and communicate.

• With the question of documentation what other legal matters will arise? How do we minimize misunderstandings and ambiguity? How do we insure that vulnerable children’s rights are legally secure?

• A child who falls into a vulnerable situation entered this vulnerability for a reason. It may have a medical component. How do we address medical needs? Who can volunteer?

With each child and each family there must be training and nurture. Where will we find the right social workers? Also, how will we practically prepare and nurture new foster and adoptive families?

Children bring us quickly to practical matters. Babies need clothes, formula, a bed, and come with financial needs. How will these be addressed?

• I am sure my beginning list is not complete. What else do you see? How could you help?

To refine this proposal into all that God intend we need your dialogue. Please call me at 0788-675-122, or write me at christchurchrwanda@gmail.com.

You can also contact Jana at 0788-641-781, or write her at jananrwanda@gmail.com.

Our plan is to on SUNDAY 7 AUGUST have a CONSULTATIVE MEETING DURING WORSHIP to continue this discussion.

I close with one final thought. What will be the final answer to this journey of SPOKEN FOR? It starts with God’s intent from creation. WE ARE ALL MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD (GENESIS 1:27). As such we must do the work of God and see each vulnerable child as full of the dignity that all men possess. Only in this conviction will we be able to do all God intends.


A few weeks ago, my oldest daughter, So­phia graduated from Kigali International Community School (KICS). It was a mo­ment of great satisfac­tion. As she walked across the stage to receive her diploma my mind was flooded with appreciation for all those who had invested in her education. The list was long. I blogged to try to publicly say thank you.

God willing in a few weeks Sophia will begin univer­sity at Wheaton College in Chicago, Illinois. Our plan is for Sophia and me to travel to the United States to settle. We’ll be together at Wheaton for a few days. Then I will leave her and entrust her future to God. That coming day is one I face with holy fear.

In my mind I am packing – passport; clothes; and one key piece of memories, an 18 year old Ugandan drum.

Sophia graduating from Kigali International Community School.
Our family moved to Uganda in March, 1993 when Sophia was nine months old. During one of those early days of adjust­ment I was driving outside of Kampala and saw drums for sale. I stopped and haggled down to 30,000 Uganda Shil­lings (I think about $25 U.S. Dollars.) I brought the drum home and presented it to my crawling daughter.

She pulled herself to the top of the drum and began beating it. Then she began to dance to her self-produced music. Our game of learning to walk began. Sophia would crawl to the top of the drum. She would beat it and began to dance. As her beating hands came off the drum I would pull it a few centimeters away. She would reach for the drum. Her body could not re­sist continued dancing. Her eyes would meet mine. Then for a tense moment she would de­cide what to do. She would stand for a little lon­ger. I pulled the drum a few more centimeters away. She would look at me and then look at the floor. Then time after time she would drop to the floor and crawl to the drum.

Dave and Sophia.
Our little game continued for days. The love of the drum and dance drove Sophia. My hope to see her first steps drove me.

Then the moment finally came. I moved the drum away from Sophia. She looked into my eyes. Then she reached for the drum and took her first step. Jana and I cheered. Sophia was stunned at both her first step and our cheering. She reached the drum, beat it, and danced.

My first born child learned to dance beating a Ugandan drum. A sense of intuitive rhythm has been her guide. Her youthful wealth is in the diversity of friendships that she navigates with rhythm.

Africa as a loving mother, by Sophie Jenkins. (photos Dave Jenkins)
Our years in Uganda were filled with many mistakes and gracious friends. In the plans of God a good portion of the gracious friends were Rwandans. Jana and I first vis­ited Rwanda in 1999. In our first full day in Kigali we met the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, Angelina Muganza. When we asked what someone like us could do to help she responded with the idea that became CCR – An English speaking church for returnees with a good children’s program. For five years I thought it was a great idea, but assumed another would be called.

In 2001 I traveled again to Rwanda to visit friends, but this time came with my two oldest children; Sophia and Caleb who were 9 and 7 at the time. We dreamt of a new life. We played on the shores of Lake Kivu and somehow we could feel the rhythm of both Kivu’s waves and Rwan­da’s dance.

In 2004 our contract to minister in Uganda ended and all that was comfortable seemed to leave. Sophia intui­tively wrote me a wise letter at the age of 12 which told me to trust and rest. A few months later we heard the call of Rwanda and decided to move to Kigali in June, 2005.

We arrived and the dance continued. A memorable one was Valentine’s Day in 2009. Jana was sick and in pain (later we would find with a tumor.) At 16 Sophia went with me to the Val­entine’s Day Party Jana planned and we danced.

The last year has been one of guarded treasure. On October 8, 2010 we had only two tickets to Uganda’s Independence Day Cele­brations in Kigali at the Serena. Jana chose to forfeit her opportunity so I could go with Sophia. We sat with old friends, shared a meal, laughed, and in the end danced. It was a fitting start to her final year of secondary school in Kigali. Af­ter all Sophia learned to dance before she could walk.

Now as we pack the old Uganda drum will make her journey to Wheaton College. I will leave Sophia there with my blessing of African rhythm. Whatever new challenges may come to Sophia in Chicago I am confident her Africa rhythm will find a way to dance through it.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Dear Family and Friends,

Our live always seems to be full of transitions. In the next month we’ll make one we can’t imagine. Our oldest child, Sophia has grown to adulthood, graduated from high school, and soon plans to be at Wheaton College. Eighteen years ago, when we left Minnesota to move to Uganda we did not image that this day would come.

Old words ring true,

“Jesus was blunt: "No chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you let God do it."

Peter tried another angle: "We left everything and followed you."

Jesus said, "Mark my words, no one who sacrifices house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, land—whatever—because of me and the Message will lose out. They'll get it all back, but multiplied many times in homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land—but also in troubles. And then the bonus of eternal life! This is once again the Great Reversal: Many who are first will end up last, and the last first." (Mark 10:27-31, The Message.)

As we celebrate 18 years in Africa by sending our oldest child to the USA for college we’ve seen the truth of these words.
We have few earthly possessions, but on this earth an unfathomably deep well of friendships in the region God has called us to minister.

We are thrilled that Sophia has been accepted to her first choice, Wheaton College.
We believe she will thrive there. To read about Sophia’s decision and journey to Wheaton check out her blog at

Wheaton is one of the top Christian Universities in the USA. Sophia has found $9,000 of scholarships. Our family has qualified for $11,000 more in USA Federal Aid. We need to find at least $22,000 more in 4 weeks. It is time for a Harambee.

Harambee is Kiswahili for "let's pull together." It was a word that summarized the realm of Jana’s childhood in Kenya.
Thus Sophia’s Graduation party will be a Harambee at our home in Kigali on Saturday, 6 August.

We would love for you to attend.

For those unable to attend the Harambee, you can write a check to “Sophia Jenkins,” and mail it to:

Bluestone Federal Credit Union
1252 Yankee Doodle Road
Eagan, MN 55121
Phone Number: 651-452-3131

Thanks for sharing this wonderful journey with us.

Dave and Jana

Friday, July 15, 2011


Dear Family and Friends,

There are seasons in life and ministry. Sometimes it seems like everything is going well during a season of ease. Other times every moment is a stretch.
At times we have concluded that our seasons of difficulty are ones in which the Enemy has been granted a season to attack us. At other times we conclude that these seasons of stretching are ones in which the Lord is testing us. Our weakness is displayed. In the process of the struggle He refines our character and positions us for new opportunities to serve and display His glory.

There will come a day in which all will be clear. Today, the task is to seek Him, pray, and serve. The last month has been one that has left us stretched. For instance:

Our landlord asked us to move so she could replace the asbestos roof. Her home was a beautiful one where we had lived for almost six years. It had 5 bedrooms and a wonderful yard filled with trees. It was ideal for our large family and hosting many guests. Our rent was reasonable at $900 per month. As we looked for similar homes all cost between $2,500 and $1,500 per month. Thankfully, we were able to find a similar home for $1,000 per month. We moved, but the move has been expensive and left us unsettled. After renting for 18 years in Africa we are weary of not owning our home.

Gabriel continues to gain weight and now has over doubled his birth weight from 1.3 kilos (2 pounds 14 ounces) to 2.9 kilos (6 pounds 6 ounces).
However, we have some struggle. His legal status is ambiguous. Also, over the last month he has increasingly become a “colicky baby.”

• Though Kigali is likely the safest major city in Africa we employ a man to watch our home at night to protect us from petty theft.
A few months ago, we found our watchman repeatedly sleeping and decided to no longer continue his employment. He responded by suing us for a little over $11,000. In yesterday’s court ruling he was granted approximately $1,500. Though less than his initial claim this does feel unjust.

• We are thrilled that Sophia has been accepted to her first choice, Wheaton College.
We believe she will thrive there. Wheaton is one of the top Christian Universities in the USA. Sophia has found $9,000 of scholarships. Our family has qualified for $11,000 more in USA Federal Aid. We need to find at least $22,000 more in 4 weeks.

One of God’s messages for His people is to remember His good deeds of the past. Though we feel stretched and a bit weary we sense this is a season that God intends to use to prepare us for new opportunities to display His glory. Last month we asked for you to join us in thanking God for the 18 years that God displayed His providence in Sophia’s life and also for guidance on how we could bless children such as Gabriel Mugisha.

We ask this month for you to remember us in prayer for protection, providence, and wisdom. This Sunday Dave will present a sermon at CCR called, “The Spoken For Proposal” in which he intends to lay a vision for CCR to lead in a Fostering to Adopt ministry for Vulnerable Children. We sense that much of the last month’s stretching is for the purpose of God’s glory being displayed through this effort.

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

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

Dave and Jana

P.S. Both Rwanda and the USA share a common day of freedom’s triumph on the Fourth of July. To see Dave’s reflections on this day see our blog at

Our colleague Bryan Hixson also wrote his reflections on freedom. You can see his reflections at http://bryanhixson.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/acting-on-independence/.


This past Fourth of July passed with little fanfare in our lives. It came on a Monday in which I was experiencing ministry exhaustion. Our family went to a pool with a few friends and simply rested.

As time passed memories came to my mind. Some were of Fourth of July’s past in America where we gathered with family and friends on the lake, ate well, played, and finished the day watching fireworks overhead to celebrate America’s Independence. Others were of gatherings at Amahoro Stadium in Kigali as we gathered with friends to remember when Rwanda’s genocide ended as Kigali was liberated by the RPF victory.

Then my mind drifted to other memories. Freedom requires suffering. It comes with a painful cost. During the season of suffering life can be completely disorientating. As the season of suffering ends with victory it is time to build institutions to make the past struggle simply history.

My grandmother, Minnie Sophia Eichorn Jenkins and I share a common birthday. We also shared a love for reading history and writing. I keep some of her diaries and correspondence. She charted our family history back to the days of the American Revolutionary War. At a certain point the past becomes a story in which it is difficult to feel empathy. On the chart are the names of men who served in many of the United State’s wars. Yet, in my grandmother’s diary is a painful memory. Today, I don’t have the emotional strength to read the story. My grandmother had an older brother named Sanford. From the correspondence between the two they were childhood best friends. Sanford joined the U.S. Army and served in the First World War. He was a casualty of that war. I don’t think my grandmother ever completely healed from the loss of her brother. As she told me the stories of her life, his name, photos, and stories always were entwined. I’ve been told that my grandmother’s dad late in life would still be brought to tears by the memory of the loss of his son, Sanford Eichorn.

Men like Sanford Eichorn gave generations the gift of freedom. Trench warfare in France changed life in rural Minnesota forever. Following his death, my grandmother taught in a one room school, met my grandfather, married, and raised five children (of which one was my dad.) My grandfather, Jay Jenkins was partially handicapped during a season of American history in which a man’s livelihood depended on physical strength. Three of my uncles served in the Second World War. As time has gone on those of us a bit younger have realized that some of them saw the darkest hours of the Second World War. We received a legacy of freedom paid by ordinary people who for a season of life were heroic. They endured poverty and violence for principle. At best those of us a bit younger were able to labor for the infra-structure that made life enduring in America. My dad built highways. I enjoy driving with my children on roads my dad labored upon. There is something intensely rewarding to show my children the fruit of my dad’s labor.

We were formed by a freedom struggle.

My grandmother was an intuitive person. She sensed that I would be different than her other grandchildren, and likely move far from rural Minnesota to do something new. It is ironic that Rwanda and the United States share the same day of freedom victory.

I was in Rwanda’s neighboring country of Uganda in 1993 and 1994. For some unique reason in the plans of God my first friendships were with those who shared in Rwanda’s journey. (For more detailed reading see http://jenkinsinrwanda.blogspot.com/2010/04/memories-of-april-7-1994.html.)

One of my college friends, Charles Guma was from Western Uganda near a place where Rwandan refugees lived. I remember visiting his home shortly after my arrival in Uganda and listening to his family discuss the loss of Guma’s nephew in the Rwanda struggle. I remember ordinary Rwandan women and children I knew in Kampala who listened to the news of negotiations in Arusha with hope of returning home. I also remember stunned horror as news began coming from Rwanda following the start of the genocide on 7 April, 1994. On 4 July, 1994 Kigali was liberated and the genocide ceased. Since then many have labored to build a new Rwanda.

We were formed by a freedom struggle.

My study of Scripture and history tells me that these freedom struggles are part of human history. Left to our own fallen nature mankind falls into the traps of tyranny and slavery. The forms may vary, but there is something addictive about surrendering freedom. Yet the image of God within each one of us yearns for freedom.

Three old names from the Bible quickly come to mind in formative freedom struggles – Moses, Jesus, and Paul.

Israel over 400 years transitions from a dysfunctional extended family into a nation while living exiled from their promised land. As their population increases their ethnic cousins wage war on Egypt. Pharaoh’s morally repugnant but politically seeming shrewd maneuver is a combination of genocide and slavery. A Hebrew pretending to be an Egyptian prince spends 40 years herding livestock in the desert until God calls. The call further teaches Moses humility. The instructions are clear. Israel must be free to worship. After painful plagues they are released. However, slavery had become addictive. At each moment in which the mystery of freedom is too intense Israel begs to return to Egypt. Only a generation who tasted freedom in desert conditions could truly become what God intended. In the process of national formation God speaks with 10 Commands. Freedom requires responsible action in community.
We were formed by a freedom struggle.

The commands were a tool of God to keep Israel free. Generations later their intent had been corrupted.

Jesus of Nazareth entered history as Judah was living under Roman occupation. He historically followed one Judah’s great religious reform movements, the Pharisees. However, like most reform movements as they passed the fervor of their revival experience to another generation the spirit was lost and what remained was rituals designed to create religious control. Jesus proclaimed freedom from the control of religion. He spoke old messages with new authority. He proclaimed the liberty and forgiveness of Jubilee. He proclaimed the last command that God was interested in our heart above all. He showed the nature of God was to suffer and die to bring us freedom from the addictive slavery of sin. Though he died in a remote and almost unknown province as a common thieve His message transformed the world.

We were formed by a freedom struggle.

The messengers of Jesus spread His message where ever they journeyed. They formed new communities of faith called churches. The seeming master missionary of this generation was Paul (former Saul) of Tarsus. He had grown up under the bondage of religious control. The mechanisms of control teach hate. As he met the light and love of Jesus, Paul was transformed. His transformation reached all that he met. As he left his baby churches others arrived seeking to bring freedom back to religious control. Paul was enraged when he wrote the letter to Galatians. The control freaks lost the battle for the heart of the church, but they have a habit of creeping into our lives at moments when mystery is overwhelming.

We were formed by a freedom struggle.

Throughout history the cycles repeat. Slavery while sounding awful is full of comfort. It makes life controlled and understandable. Freedom is about mystery, celebration, and a responsible transformed community. The Reformers rise to call us back to the freedom struggle.

My spiritual heritage is a child of the Second Great Awakening called the American Restoration Movement (or some label it the Stone / Campbell Movement, but these men were resistant to labeling their principles by their names.) It was a movement rooted in a hunger for the paradox of Revival and Unity. Like all of those who struggle for freedom the early years were not ones of religious popularity. However, they were transformational. I am forever grateful for the legacy of these freedom seekers.

We were formed by a freedom struggle.

As our family came to Rwanda we came as children of a freedom struggle. Our desire was simple – To plant non-denominational English based church with a good children’s program for returning Diaspora. We wrestled with the place of our heritage in this freedom journey. (For more reading see http://jenkinsinrwanda.blogspot.com/2010/05/honoring-our-heritage.html.)

In the early days of CCR’s birth the forces of slavery raged. Painfully, we stood with the freedom seekers. Those days were lonely and our own weaknesses were displayed. Yet, now that the victory has come our task remains. We must build a community that will endure. Our task is not finished until the Lord returns.

We were formed by a freedom struggle.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Dear CCR Family and Friends,

For the next few weeks at CCR we’ll be going through a simple rotation of sermons we’ve called, “From the Pastor’s Heart.” I’ll preach this coming Sunday, and Eddie Mwunvaneza will do the following two Sundays.

This Sunday I would greatly appreciate your feedback. I’m going to lay out a beginning proposal for CCR to begin care for the most vulnerable orphan children in Rwanda. If you follow CCR and my writing you’ve seen the journey.

On 17 March, 2009 I wrote an article for Rwanda Dispatch entitled, “What About Vulnerable Children?” (To see the article check out http://jenkinsinrwanda.blogspot.com/2010/04/what-about-vulnerable-children-rwanda.html.
) I argued that many attempts to deal with vulnerable children were more of an effort to meet one’s emotional needs. I acknowledged that I did not have this dilemma figured out. However, if the issue is not decisively addressed it will become an economic disaster for our future hopes. The only answer I saw was in the development of three institutions – families, schools, and businesses.

On Sunday, 7 November CCR joined other churches around the world as participants in Orphan Sunday.
(To see my reflections on that Sunday check out http://jenkinsinrwanda.blogspot.com/2010/11/pastoral-reflections-on-orphan-sunday.html.)

We had a deep sense that God would move within CCR to address this issue, but at the same time did not know exactly what that would be.

My wife, Jana gathered people for months to pray.

We’ve had discussions with other organizations. We’ve read our bibles. We’ve listened.

I sense the time has come for me to make a proposal that Jana and I have wrestled with called, “Spoken For.” I’ve shared it with our other CCR leaders and they agree the time has come to put the proposal before all of you.

I hope you can be with us this Sunday. Also, I hope you know that like all my sermons I hope you’ll feel free to discuss this one. I’m going to propose a direction, but CCR is a community and we need the full wisdom of our community to become all God intends.

Imana ikurinde,


Friday, July 8, 2011


Dear CCR Family and Friends,

Last week we finished our series on the 10 Commandments. As we did I hope you heard the message that God gave us these commands with the intent to bless us for thousands of generations. The Old Testament is a collection of beautiful historic literature. With each command we tried to understand how the command’s principle was expressed in a nation’s policy, poetry, and history. I find the Old Testament to be remarkably relevant to contemporary Kigali.

For the next several weeks we will look at the voices of prophets who called God’s people back to their beautiful dignity as they lived at peace with God and fellow man.
Eugene Peterson described the prophets with the following words, The prophets worked to get people who were beaten down to open themselves up to hope in God’s future. In the wreckage of exile and death and humiliation and sin, the prophet ignited hope, opening lives to the new work of salvation that God is about at all times and everywhere.”

We are going to look at the words of Isaiah as he predicts Israel’s return from refugee living. A key text we’ll read is “Can a mother forget the infant at her breast, walk away from the baby she bore? But even if mothers forget, I'd never forget you—never. (Isaiah 49:15-16 - The Message)”

One of my friends in reading this text remarked, “That is so powerful. I had never imagined any love and care that supersedes that of a mother for her baby. But God's love has challenged my imagination!”

I hope you’ll be able to join us this week as we discover that God’s love goes beyond a mother’s love.

Imana ikurinde,