Thursday, February 10, 2011

Return from Burundi and Rwanda

Theophile Rugubira teaching in Muhanga, RW
Butare, RW
Butare, RW--the service may not be that good, but since the help isn't paid, it's cheap!
Things like this are ubiquitous throughout East Africa
On Monday I returned home from Rwanda and Burundi, after a stopover in NYC where Nancy and I saw our daughter Julia graduate from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, and where we saw the Packers beat the Steelers 31-25 in the Super Bowl!

Since my last update, Theophile and I did 3 conferences in Rwanda: Biblical Stewardship in Muhanga and Butare, and 1 Timothy in Nyanza. These courses are having an impact. One of my translators, Joseph, told me that he had been teaching our Stewardship material to 18 students at a Bible College. After his introduction of the course, the students said, "You need to teach this all week," so he did. Other teachers from the college heard about the class and came to listen. They told him that it was "transformative."

In Muhanga the 65 participants engaged in lengthy and quite animated debates over the necessity of developing household budgets and over basic life priorities. One of the things we teach is that the logical priority list, which reflects one's relationship with the Lord, should be: spouse/family; others; and then the church. Most pastors have their priorities exactly backwards. During their debate some said, "This is not what our culture says, and we can't do it." Others said, "But this is biblical." One pastor told me, "I am learning so much, but change is hard."

These pastors are wrestling with one of the most important, and vexing, issues that exists: the relationship between Christ and culture. Christianity is unlike other religions in that it can be expressed in any culture in the world (unlike, for example, Islam, which is largely imposing Arab culture on non-Arab peoples, or Hinduism, which is largely imposing Indian culture on non-Indian peoples). Thus, African Christianity has a distinctly different "look" and "feel" compared to Korean or many Western expressions of Christianity (one of the many huge mistakes that the missionaries made 100+ years ago was to, in effect, equate Christianity with Western culture). Nevertheless, there are important areas where Christ and the trans-cultural principles of Christianity challenge all cultures, and challenge us to look with new eyes at our own unreflective enslavement to our culturally-based habits of thought and action. These pastors are beginning to see this. As one of them said, "I wish we had heard these things 50 years ago. Maybe our children will be able to do it better."

As Theophile and I discussed the vision of EPI in East Africa, I saw with greater clarity the strategy that I think my national leaders and I should be pursuing to effectively develop good teams of committed Bible teachers in each of the countries of the East Africa Community. This will require greater involvement by the national leaders (and probably a greater financial commitment by me), as I will be outlining for them in the near future--but EPI's ultimate purpose is to equip and maximize the involvement of the national leaders, not to aggrandize Westerners like me.
So, this was a profitable trip in many ways. I will now be home until the beginning of April, when I will leave for Kenya. While at home, I will continue to work on the Biblical Eschatology notes, which I hope to finish later this Spring. I hope to see many of you while I am here. Again, I am looking for good laptops to be donated to EPI so that I can get them to the African translators (some of whom do not have their own laptops) and to other key people, and for special financial donations to help fund the translation project, which is proceeding apace. All donations are tax deductible, and may be sent to: EPI, c/o Jonathan Menn, 714 S. Summit St., Appleton, WI 54914.

Thank you for your continuing prayers and support--they are making a difference. God bless you, Jonathan

PS--If I didn't mention it earlier, the final score was: PACKERS 31-STEELERS 25!

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