Monday, February 10, 2014

ECLEA: Return from East Africa

I just returned yesterday from East Africa. Here are the highlights since my previous post:

Burundi-Rema Ministries TOT
My first week in Burundi was spent doing a 1 Timothy TOT for the Rema Ministries staff (which is serving as ECLEA's committee in Burundi). Overseer Peter Barihzigo of the MINEVAM denomination was also present throughout. We spent four days together. The discussion was spirited, sometimes evolving into animated discussion in Kirundi among the participants. I always consider that a good thing. This was in preparation for our leading a 1 Timothy conference for the 50 Burundi MINEVAM pastors.
Rema Ministries staff
Gatumba-1 Timothy conference

Frederic Harerimana, Francois Nitunga, and I spent 3 1/2 days teaching 1 Timothy to the 50 MINEVAM pastors of Burundi. Last Fall we had done a Biblical Stewardship conference for the same group. I began this conference by asking participants what they had done about stewardship since several months had elapsed since that conference. Many testimonies were given: several talked of planting trees; one talked of teaching basic health practices; another said that he had established a finance committee. One pastor had been sent out to plant a new church. He said that the stewardship teaching served as the foundation as he began the church; it also gave him a greater sense of respect for his fellow leaders and his congregants. One pastor told us that, at the time of the stewardship conference, he had had diabetes. As a result of the "stewardship of the body" portion of the conference, he decreased his consumption of soda and stopped taking sugar with his tea. His doctor recently confirmed that he no longer has diabetes!
One pastor testifying about effects of stewardship conference
The conference itself went very well. Because we spent 3 1/2 days, not the 2 1/2 we usually use, we had time for 3 small group discussion sessions and plenty of Q&A. Comments to me and my fellow teachers confirmed that this conference was eye-opening. Not one of the pastors had ever either studied or preached a series of sermons through an entire book of the Bible, section-by-section from beginning to end as we did. The participants were clearly challenged in a number of areas. Overseer Barihzigo was present throughout and challenged the pastors to apply what they had learned. Frederic also received many invitations to preach at the pastors' churches. I am confident that, over time, we will see some real progress in the MINEVAM denomination as a result of our work with these pastors.
Frederic teaching at MINEVAM 1 Timothy conference
MINEVAM participants

Rema Ministries has a very good theological library consisting of maybe 1000 volumes or more. It was in rather a state of disorganization, however. Rema director Felibien Ndintore gave me the green light to reorganize it, a job I was very happy to do. I spent about 1 1/2 days getting the library reorganized in a logical order and all the shelves labeled. We also discussed a couple of ways to keep the books in a reasonable order. I hope this helps both Rema and the outsiders who sometimes use the library.

Next stop: Kenya 

I will be home until the end of March, when I will head to Kenya. I hope to be able to get together with some of you while I am here. I already have a substantial list of ECLEA and personal matters on my to-do list for these next few weeks. Be sure to check out ECLEA's website ( it has several additions I added shortly before I had left for Rwanda and Burundi, and I will be adding new material while I am home now. So, with that, I must get to work!

God bless you, Jonathan

ECLEA: Report from East Africa

From my emailed "report from the field":
Last week I was in Kigali, Rwanda doing such a training on Biblical Stewardship for the ECLEA-Rwanda team. Here are some of the highlights:

Jonathan eats an omlette
I have always hated eggs. Even as a child. On rare occasions in Africa I have tried to choke down part of a Spanish omlette that had been smothered in pili-pili to mask the taste. Here in Rwanda, however, I had a new experience. I stayed at the guest house and conference center run by Scripture Union. The food was very good (including lots of vegetables--a rarity most of the time in East Africa). Part of my breakfast each day was a Spanish omlette, but not like any other I'd ever had. These were liberally topped with lots of tomatoes, peppers, and onions. In fact, they looked like small, thin-crust pizzas! I added a few drops of Rwanda's "akabanga" chili oil.
An edible omlette
We also had good fruit including "tree tomatoes" (also sometimes called "bloodfruit") and passion fruit:
Tree tomato, passion fruit + one uncut passion fruit
Stewardship TOT
The ECLEA-Rwanda team currently consists of 8 people. Late last year they elected a new national coordinator after several excellent years of service in that capacity by Theophile Rugubira. The new coordinator is Stephen Nshimimana. He appears to be an excellent choice and has the confidence of the team and of me. (Theophile is still part of the team but got too busy to continue as coordinator.)

Six of the eight team members were able to be present for the entire four days of teaching and discussion on Biblical Stewardship. And deep discussions there were! Although I have worked with these good people for some time, more than one commented how valuable this time together was and how things "clicked" in ways that they had not before. I am very glad of this, because the Rwandans are planning on going out in groups of two to do stewardship TOTs in each of the provinces of Rwanda, beginning in late March.
ECLEA-Rwanda TOT participants
Interestingly, several times the subject of marriage came up during our stewardship TOT. Our stewardship course is all about how Christianity and the Bible are designed to apply to all areas of life and should transform us from the inside-out so as to affect our lives in all areas. Marriage, of course, is probably the foundational institution for society. The thing that came out clearly was that, even though we are dealing with pastors and church leaders, in many cases Christ is not at the center of their marriages. Rather, their marriages are based on their culture which, in certain important ways, is profoundly unChristian (this is not unique to Rwanda). Bringing the relationship between husbands and wives into the mutuality, trust, and love called for by Christ will take time and work. But it will be profoundly transformative if and when that occurs. Please pray for these good people, that their marriages will be healed and Christ will truly be the center.