Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Report from Rwanda & Burundi

Anglican Bishop opening the Marriage conference in Muyinga, BU

Theophile teaching in Buhiga, BU

Expository Preaching grop in Kigali, RW

Here is the report I emailed to friends and supporters "from the field" about 2 weeks ago when I was in Rwanda and Burundi:

I have been in Rwanda and Burundi for 2 weeks. Here are some highlights of this trip:

Kigali, RW--Expository Preaching TOT I did round 2 of expository preaching with about 15 pastors from both RW and BU. We concentrated on 2 passages that implicated both the OT and the NT: Ezek 37:15-28 and Luke 11:29-32. I had sent them to the participants in advance, with suggested relevant parallels, and asked them to read and think about, so we could hit the ground running. Unfortunately, very few did that. I have to get used to this, but it is hard to. Their actual sermons showed greater attention to the form I am trying to teach them, but I am sorry to say their analyses of the passages missed the big points of the passages, which we had spent 2 days talking about. {sigh}

Buhiga & Kobero, BU--Biblical Stewardship Burundi is the least developed (both spiritually and technologically) of the 5 countries of the East African community. In both places the pastors seemed to be at a very low level theologically. Further, in Buhiga only 3/47 were actually paid, and Kobero only 1/48. Incredible. Yet, in both places they were serious, and clearly wanted to learn. In Kobero, where we had been last year, they said that, as a result of last year's conference, they had formed an interdenominational pastors committee, which they had never had before. In both places several pastors gave testimonies of how they had been teaching and applying 1 Timothy (which we had taught last year). They both promised to show positive evidence of applying our stewardship material when Theophile Rugubira follows up with them in a few months. In Buhiga they gave Theophile, Frederic (my translator) and me flashlights as a token of the light which we have brought them.

Muyinga, BU--Occupational Hazards Theophile and I then traveled to Muyinga, BU to do a Marriage & Parenting conference, scheduled for this last Mon.-Wed. Unfortunately, the Saturday afternoon we arrived in Muyinga I became very ill. I was diagnosed by a doctor as having some malaria and a bad case of food poisoning. I basically spent the next 3 days shuttling almost every hour between my bed and the toilet. I seemed to turn the corner Tues. afternoon when I was able to eat a little avocado and banana, my first food in 3 days. That night I actually was able to spend the night in bed, without the usual shuttle. I'm now on the mend. Theophile taught the first 2 days of the conference by himself, and from all reports did an excellent job. I chipped in by teaching one unit on Wed. morning, the last day of the conference.

That whole experience confirmed 3 things for me: (1) It demonstrated the absolute necessity of developing good core groups of African teachers of EPI's material. I always have at least one (usually more than one) African teach with me. If I didn't do that, this conference would have been scratched. EPI is not about Westerners coming to teach the Africans, but about both of us working in partnership until, God-willing, there will be so many well-trained African teachers that Westerners won't be required to come at all. (2) This also confirmed what I have long perceived: Marriage is so highly culturally-influenced that I think it is far better that all marriage conferences be conducted entirely by Africans, without any Western teachers at all. Although there are some units in this course that can be seen as less culturally-influenced, I think that any Westerner faces a huge uphill battle of overcoming the (unspoken) perception that, "You may say you are just teaching what the Bible says about marriage, but what you are really doing is imposing on us Western culture and the 'Western' way of doing marriage." Theophile was, of course, able to teach in the local language, and stimulate LOTS of Q&A, testimonies, and discussion, which I or any Westerner simply could not have done. On the last day he was able to deal with and discuss lots of questions regarding contraception, polygamy, and divorce from both an African and a biblical perspective that any Westerner simply cannot do. The misinformation and absence of theological and other knowledge regarding sex, contraception, and other aspects of marriage, as a result of the culture, is simply astounding. I think that well-trained Africans, who of course already know the culture but also know the Bible and EPI's material, are in a vastly better position to deal with that misinformation and ignorance sensitively, without the risk (that most Westerners would face) of being patronizing. (3) On a more positive note, my experience in Muyinga proved to be a very effective way to lose weight! Not too pleasant. But effective. Just trying to be helpful in case you're having trouble losing those last 10 stubborn pounds.

God bless you all. And for those of you who were aware of my illness and prayed, THANK YOU. Best regards, Jonathan

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