Monday, November 22, 2010

Return from East Africa

Rwanda 1 Timothy TOT Group 1 Timothy group at lunch

Overlooking Kigali, RW

The remainder of my trip since my last update went well. We had a very good 1 Timothy TOT in Kigali, Rwanda with 15 pastors, and a Biblical Stewardship TOT in Mbale, Uganda with 12 pastors. The TOT in Mbale was particularly fruitful in that it took place at the Pentecostal Theological College. One of the participants was a professor at the college. I talked with him and one of the students, and both expressed interest in translating EPI's material into the Ateso language, and perhaps other languages.

I want to make most of my conferences closer to the TOT format: i.e., participants selected by the African leaders with an eye toward those who are sharp and can be good teachers; smaller numbers; more Q&A and discussion. I think the impact will be greater, as well as the costs held down.

I Guess I am Officially Old--This is the first trip I have made to Africa in which several people have called me "mzee" (i.e., "old man"): a boda-boda (motorbike) driver, someone on the street while I was walking, and a few others. One woman guessed that my age was 60 (I am 58). That is the first time someone over here has erred on the high side of my age. As I was leaving Mbale I was talking with the girl who had been primarily in charge of the food. I said something like Ï hope to see you again if I am back here next yeear." She responded by saying, "Yes, I look forward to seeing that grey hair again." I replied, in as measured a way as I could, while trying to maintain a smile on my face, "Thank you . . . that's very nice of you to say . . . I'm sure."

An Opportunity for You--At the meeting of the EPI East Africa national coordinators, one of the things we talked about was concentrating on creating and equipping core teams of committed, passionate, capable, and well-equipped national teachers in each of the countries. One aspect of equipping them is technologically. Right now, very few of the pastors, including the good teachers I need to rely on, have their own laptops. I would like to help them to get laptops, which I can load with excellent biblical resources. This is where you can help. If you have a used (or new) laptop, would you please donate it to EPI? The donation is, of course, tax-deductible. You could deliver/ship it to me at: 714 S. Summit St., Appleton, WI 54914. The effect in the lives and ministries of these men and women would be tremendous, and it would greatly facilitate our work in East Africa. Please consider this, especially as it is now approaching year-end.

Biblical Eschatology--I am currently working on a set of teaching notes on Biblical Eschatology. This is quite a challenging project, especially since there are 5 main views on the subject. I took 4 books on the subject with me to Africa, as well as the 50 pages of manuscript that I had completed before I left (which is about 1/2 of what I want to write). While in Africa I made copious editorial revisions. I will be spending my time while I am home working on this project. Undoubtedly I will be going down to Deerfield, IL to use Trinity Evangelical School's excellent theological library more than once before the project is completed (which I project for sometime in the Spring). This is an area that sparks great interest in Africa, but is one on which there is much heat but little light. Please pray that I will be able to bring some needed light and clarity to the subject.
And Finally--I hope and pray that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas season. I will be home until early January, when I will leave for Florida for EPI's annual meeting and, probably, from there back to Rwanda and Burundi. With the laptop project, translation of multiple sets of teaching notes into several East African languages, and the prospect of many new all-African conferences and TOTs, the need for financial support, of course, is growing rather than diminishing. I thank everyone who has supported this important ministry over the last few years (you know who you are, I know who you are, and God knows who you are). I would simply ask you to prayerfully consider this, and, as Paul says in 1 Tim 6:18-19, be generous and share because, by doing so, you are "storing up a good foundation, and taking hold of that which is truly life." Thanks, and I hope to see many of you before I leave again for East Africa. Take care and God bless you, Jonathan

PS--I have to close now because it's time for my warm milk, and then I have to take my teeth out.

Report from East Africa #2

Rwanda Stewardship TOT group View from Gitarama, RW
Theophile Rugubira teaching at Gitarama conference

Here is the report I sent while I was in Rwanda in the recent Ocy.-Nov. trip:

My trip to East Africa has continued to be busy and productive since the meetings with the national coordinators and the Ugandan leadership team about which I previously emailed you. Following the meetings in Uganda, I took the bus to Kigali, Rwanda (about a 10 hour ride). We began the next day with an excellent Biblical Stewardship TOT for about 15 participants. The participants were from both Rwanda and Burundi. Lots of spirited discussion and understanding.

Following that, we had a pastors conference for about 60 pastors in Gitarama, RW. Gitarama is a scenic town in the Southern Province. I had never been there before. 1 Tim 1:5, as you may recall, talks about the goal of our instruction being love. That spoke powerfully to the participants. In their small group sessions they clearly identified major deficiencies in their churches, ultimately stemming from a lack of love and failure to as a family (see, 1 Tim 3:15). They resolved to make changes.

At the conference, a pastor from Gitarama (who also had been one of the TOT participants) asked me to preach on the goal of love at his church the next day. I expounded on this, and God did a most marvelous thing. One of the women church leaders went out of the church during the sermon and encountered a poor, older woman whose roof was leaking quite badly (it had been raining a lot for the previous several days). The woman wanted to know where she might get a tent. When the leader came back into the church, I was just saying something about practical ways of showing love, including saying something like, "If your mother's house has a roof that leaks, wouldn't you fix it?" She took that as "prophetic." After the sermon, she came forward, spoke at some length (in Kinyarwanda, so I couldn't understand), about the poor woman she had met. She found the woman and brought her forward. Several people, some of them in tears, came forward. One man pledged 2 iron sheets for her roof. One woman pledged 2 bedsheets. Two women pledged some clothing. Two people pledged 30,000frw (about $55.00) apiece. More than one person mentioned that God had brought this woman to the church as an opportunity to demonstrate love. The pastor also told me that he knew men in the church who could do roofing.

Further, one of the church members identified two other needy women. The woman leader who had begun the process said that she would be identifying other needy people in the church. This was not merely an emotional response, but appears to be the beginning of a process whereby this church will be transformed by love. The pastor told me that he would make sure that this was just the beginning, not the end. The transformative power of Christ, when people really grasp the gospel and its implications, is truly amazing. It was one of the most heartening things I have seen and experienced since coming to Africa. Praise be to God. Please hold up Ebenezer Church of Gitarama, Rwanda, that it would follow through, and be a shining example of Christ, the gospel, and the power of love in action.

Report from East Africa #1

JMM and East Africa national coordinators Uganda leadership group

On Oct. 10 I left the US for Uganda and Rwanda. I returned hom on Nov. 5. Here is the first report I sent to those on my email list, while I was in Uganda:

The meeting of the national coordinators in Kampala went well. We spent 2 very full days talking about our vision for EPI, talking about a 5 year plan, and how to actualize it. Our goal ultimately is to see significant change in the churches and the church leaders. The specifics of such change can be measured by the major aspects of the things we teach: e.g., the pastors and their spouses have marriages that are biblical and reflect the relationship between Christ and the church; church leaders are selected by applying the principles of 1 Timothy 3; the churches have formal written budgets; interdenominational pastors fellowships are created and there is greater cooperation between the churches; the pastors begin teaching and preaching expositorily; the churches begin formally discipling new believers.

In order to achieve that, in the next 5 years: we need to get all of our course materials translated into the major East African languages; in each country we will develop a core group of committed, passionate, good teachers ("the cream") who will be our national leaders; we will provide good theological materials to those leaders; we will endeavor to have those leaders all meet together up to 2 times; and I will endeavor to recruit 2 Americans who can do what I do in East Africa. So, if you're interested in teaching in East Africa, please get in touch with me! Our 5 year goal is also to reduce the American portion of the funding of our conferences and TOTs from its current level of almost 100%, down to 50%. This will be a challenge, since the funding requirements will actually increase because, as we develop good teachers in each of the countries, they will be doing conferences and TOTs on their own. Thus, the total number of conferences and TOTs will be increasing substantially. The East African economy will not double or quadruple in the next 5 years, and I am responsible for funding these conferences and TOTs. Over time, by their using the resources they do have, concentrating on smaller numbers of participants, getting foodstuffs donated, etc., the Africans will be able to increase their share of the funding. This will require great prayer and work. But, in the long run, it is hugely necessary if the Africans are truly to take "ownership" of EPI's work in East Africa. That is my goal and their goal. All of the national leaders will keep each other informed by email as they take different steps to achieve these goals.

Following the meeting with the national coordinators, I met with Martin Odi and an interdenominational group of pastors he selected as the core of the Uganda EPI leadership team. They enthusiastically endorsed the importance of what we are trying to achieve. They will all be meeting themselves later this year to strategize and tackle some of the difficult logistical and funding issues. It was a very productive meeting. I want to concentrate on training them (and the similar groups from the other East African countries) well, as they will be the leaders in equipping the African church leaders and transforming the African churches.

We all agree that East Africa--given its history, location, relative stability, democracy, and prosperity--is the key region for all of sub-Saharan Africa. Islam is extremely aggressive, well-funded, and is a substantial threat to Christianity in Africa. As East Africa goes, so goes the rest of the continent. Consequently, what we are doing now, in developing well-trained indigenous pastoral teaching teams for equipping and strengthening the church in East Africa will have important and long-term consequences.