Saturday, September 24, 2011

Return from East Africa

Moses Isabirye teaching in Mukono Martin Odi teaching in Kamuli

Elkanah Munduni: Luganda translator

I have just returned home, after a few days in Florida with Nancy following my East Africa trip. Here is the recap of the Uganda half of that trip:

After the 10 hour bus ride from Kigali, RW to Kampala, UG, I met my friend and EPI's Uganda national coordinator, Martin Odi, at the bus station. We travelled to the outskirts of Kampala where we did the first Expository Preaching workshop with a group of 11 other Ugandan pastors. This group is the core group of Ugandan teachers that Martin is putting together. As was true in Rwanda, the preaching concepts I was trying to impart were all new. The preaching was OK, and the passage analyses and sermon critiques we did as a group were eye-opening. One of the pastors emailed me shortly afterwards: "Expository sermon workshop was inspiring. It's like a new wine served when drinkers have been drinking old wine. Who can dare to continue drinking old wine when new one is served?"

Martin and I then went to the town of Kamuli (about a 3 hour drive from Kampala). It was our first time in that venue. We did our introductory course of 1 Timothy with about 30 pastors. I am finding that smaller numbers of participants tends to promote learning, interaction, and Q&A. This group appeared to be very responsive. One of the participants pastors a church in the city of Jinja, but earns his income by operating a small business in Kamuli. After the conference ended, he told Martin that he had closed his business for the 3 days of the conference so that he could attend. He concluded: "It was worth it." In Kamuli we also talked a fair amount about money (1 Timothy 6 largely deals with the gospel and money). I asked the pastors how many of them had personal or family budgets. No one raised a hand. I then asked how many churches had formal written budgets. Again, none of them did. They very much urged us to return and teach Biblical Stewardship, which, among other things, deals with personal and church budgeting. Martin will head an all-African EPI team back to Kamuli, probably in January, to do just that. Kamuli also demonstrated the importance of the translation project. Even though English is an official language of Uganda, about half the participants took (and paid for) the English version of the 1 Timothy notes, while the other half received the Luganda version.
Following Kamuli I was to have done a marriage and parenting conference in the Central Buganda Diocese of the COU (Church of Uganda). However, at the last minute I received an email from my partner and organizer, Rev. Moses Isabirye that it had been cancelled. The diocesan secratary had emailed to Moses, "I'm writing to inform you that the Diocese of Central Buganda in consent with you had scheduled a clergy and wives workshop on 11th - 12th September 2011 on the work plan however we found it difficult to make it come to pass. It was found inconvenient for the couple to leave home during the school days." Moses was shocked that this could occur at the last minute, but, as we say, "this is Africa." Hopefully it can be rescheduled.
That gave me a few free days in Kampala, to read, work on the sermon I will be preaching at Community Church of Appleton on Oct. 9, and get ready for the final conference, another 1 Timothy conference, this time with the COU in Mukono (near Kampala). That conference, for about 65 priests of the Mukono Diocese, went very well. It was our first time in Mukono. I taught with Moses, who is an excellent teacher. Moses had been with the provincial (head) office of the COU, but has recently become the vicar of St. Andrews parish in Kampala, the second largest Anglican church in Kampala. The participants at the conference were very receptive, and the bishop expressed his desire for us return.
Through Moses I also met the Principal of the Kampala Evangelical School of Theology, Dr. Solomon B. Nkesiga. We had a very good meeting, and I am hopeful that KEST and EPI may be able to work together in the future.
I am now at home, but will be leaving in less than a month (October 17) for Kenya and Tanzania. Thank you for your continued prayers and financial support, which are invaluable. God bless you, Jonathan

Report from Rwanda

Small group discussion during 1 Timothy conference

Theophile & Miriam Rugubira family
Expository Preaching participants

The following was emailed to my friends and supporters from Rwanda at the end of August:

As I write this I am in Rwanda. We had the first-ever Expository Preaching workshop in Kigali, with about 16 participants (some from Burundi and some from Rwanda). What I am trying to convey are some ideas that will make for more effective preaching. These ideas are all new to the participants. Based on the discussions and the critiques of the student preachers, I know that many of the participants understood what we are getting at (I only wish that that understanding had been reflected a little more in the sermons preached by the 2 student preachers {sigh}). However, as I told the participants at the outset, from my experience it will take a minimum of 2 or, ideally, 3 such workshops for everyone to really "get it." We hope to do round 2 of Expository Preaching when I return to Rwanda next January-February.

We then went to the town of Nyamata, about 30 minutes from Kigali. I had been to Nyamata before to visit the genocide memorial site (where 1000s were killed--the bones, clothing, and bloodstains of the victims have been preserved at the site--a very sobering thing to see). The government is planning to relocate the main airport from Kigali to Nyamata, so Nyamata is an important up-and-coming location. We conducted a 1 Timothy conference for about 50 pastors and church leaders. I just received an email from one of the participants, who told me this: "Dear brother in the Lord i really thank you for the teachings you have delivered from nyamata , truly saying i have seen the difference of you and the missionary i work with from SOUTH Africa because you do not hide the truth as them may GOD really bless you . I promise you that i will come back to that way of teaching textual and contextual because I used to do that but people laughed at that." When I hear things like that, it confirms that we are on the right track. Remember: your prayers and financial support are making this possible.

I preached Sunday at the church which had hosted the conference. That seemed to go well, and my friend Theophile requested a copy of the sermon (which I will email to him after I return home). We then returned to Kigali where we had the first Biblical Marriage and Parenting TOT in Rwanda, with about 16 participants (mostly the same people who had been at the Expository Preaching TOT). Marriage issues and problems are pervasive here in East Africa. Each day of the TOT was marked by spirited discussion and debates concerning most aspects of marriage: finances; sex; forgiveness; showing love; living in a grace-based instead of a performance-based relationship; family planning; polygamy, divorce, and other important issues.

All of this points up the huge role the church is called to play. The church has a much more important role than most people (including most Christians and pastors) realize. It is (or should be) the place where people learn basic principles of money management, obtain basic health information, learn relational skills, as well as learn of, come to faith in, and mature in Jesus Christ. If the churches began networking and working together more, they could be a good resource for finding employment. No other institution is quite like the church. Christ, as embodied in the church, is the greatest (and, ultimately, only) hope for the temporal as well as spiritual salvation of East Africa. By God's grace, as the pastors become more and more knowledgeable and equipped, we will see significant strides in all these areas. There are few callings more important, and few areas in the world where this task is more strategic than here in East Africa. Thank you for your part in it.

Tomorrow I take the long bus ride from Kigali to Kampala, Uganda. God bless you, Jonathan