Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Oh, What Fun It Is! ~ Apostles Student Ministry

Apostles Student Ministry had their Christmas Party on December 6 and oh, what fun it was! Over 100 students and volunteer leaders filled the Fellowship Hall to celebrate the season and share in some Christmas cheer.  Thank you to Chris and Kara, Student Ministry volunteers, and our Fellows for all of their hard work this year, and to all of you for your continued support of this ministry.  Merry Christmas!


 Apostles Student Ministry is a place for 6th-12th grade students.  The 10:00 Hour on Sunday mornings meets upstairs in the youth rooms.  The Sunday Night Deal  is a worship service and small group time that meets the first 3 Sundays of the month in the evenings from 5:30-7:00pm.  For more info on Apostles Student Ministry,
Chris Hendricks or Kara Smith.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Refugee Family Donations ~ Thank You!

As the Intervention Coordinator at Sanderson High School I work with students who are in academic crisis, although school work is typically a small issue compared to the battles some our students face at home. A few weeks ago, I came across a colleague near tears out of concern for the welfare of our refugee students - they were coming to school with hunger crazed eyes and clothes for the wrong season. He has already established a clothing closet at our school for refugee and homeless students but he felt he could not keep asking our staff for more donations. He was especially concerned about the upcoming Thanksgiving break because these students normally receive free breakfast and lunch at school. Without hesitating, I told him that I knew a group of people who would love to serve these families...and, Church, you delivered an astonishing blessing to our community!

On November 22, you responded with love in a big way.  With so many bags brimming full of donations, we had to use the school mini bus on load up and drove straight over the the Sandy Forks neighborhood. We met with students and families all afternoon. There were many demonstrations from can openers to microwaves, smoke alarm batteries changed, thermostats located and adjusted and before we left, the families had already set up schedules to lend out vacuums to neighbors The most exciting moment was seeing the wonder on 8 kid's faces when two slices of bread shot up out of their new toaster. When we left a family of twelve who had been very solemn during the delivery, we could hear squeals of delight pealing through the apartment as the family reveled in their fortune found in their new home country. Thank you for partnering with our schools to transform this city through Jesus Christ! 

~ Helen Pettiford

Friday, October 9, 2015

Freedom for Mission: Julie Gilstrap on Community Hope

I was at a conference last week for work, a thousand miles away (almost literally) from Church of the Apostles and Navaho Drive.  It wasn't a conference about missions or church or charity.  It was about public policy.  So I was caught a little off-guard when the breakfast speaker's remarks one morning got me thinking about Community Hope.  In a secular forum, he talked about honoring God and serving our fellow man in our work, he quoted Timothy and Ecclesiastes, and he talked about the importance of serving "the least of these."
Very soon, we at Apostles will launch our Community Hope program.  It's a simple idea, really.  Four afternoons a week, we'll pair kids from local neighborhoods with mentors, most of whom will be Apostles members, and we'll read. We'll use lessons, individually tailored to the needs of kids, to help develop literacy skills.  I'm sure it'll look like what goes on at a lot of our kitchen tables and by the bedsides of our children. We'll sound out words, break big words into smaller chunks, and ask questions about the things we've read to make sure the kids actually comprehend the words on the page.  We may help with homework some. We'll share a short devotion with the kids each day, introducing them to Jesus.
 And we'll build relationships. Week after week, each of those kids will spend time with the same mentors. Kids and adults will get to know each other. Between the reading and struggling and marking progress, we'll talk and laugh. We'll get to know what the kids love, what they enjoy doing, and who their families are.  Mentors will give an hour of their time each week, but they'll give a lot more of that. They'll give themselves, putting energy and commitment into getting to know kids and helping them to learn and thrive.  And through it all, they'll also be showing them the love of Jesus.
The kids we're serving certainly qualify as "the least of these" that the conference speaker and Jesus in Matthew 25 were talking about. I reread that passage recently, Matthew 25:31-46. Jesus is talking about the final judgment.  He describes a scene in which he's come again in all his glory, surrounded by angels, seated on his throne. And in the midst of all that splendor, as he divides the people of the world between those who will inherit his kingdom and those who will not, his measuring stick is whether we served "the least of these." 
Now don't misinterpret this. It's not that our deeds get us into heaven, that we can somehow earn our salvation through being good people who help our fellow man. But Jesus is saying that, if we really know him, if we really love God, then we'll see that "the least of these" - the hungry, the stranger, the sick, and yes, the kids on Navaho Drive - are all people created in his image who he deeply loves.  And we'll want to love and serve them to. By reading with kids for an hour on a Tuesday afternoon, we're actually serving Jesus. And we're showing the love of Jesus to those children, their parents, and their neighborhoods. That is a high calling.
So I am excited about the work of Community Hope that we'll be undertaking.  I'm excited about the opportunity for us to reach out to our neighbors with the love of Jesus. If you've not signed up to mentor and you'd like to, let me know.  And even if you can't mentor this year, pray for the work we'll be doing. Pray that we would remember that in serving these children, we are serving Jesus and showing them his great love for them. Pray for the relationships that will be formed, for kids and their families, and for the neighborhoods in which they live.  And pray for the opportunities to share the gospel that will arise as we serve "the least of these."

---Julie Gilstrap

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Freedom for Mission: A Word from Sam Bass About 'Walk with Rwanda' and the Rwandan Church

Walk with Rwanda reminds us that Church of the Apostles was born of mission

Our Church of the Apostles exists today because missionaries came to America in the early 2000’s from Rwanda to rescue priests and churches who could no longer commune within the Episcopal Church and other major denominations that were turning away from Christian orthodoxy. Rwandan Bishop John Rucyahana is quoted by Rev. Thaddeous Barnum in his book Never Silent as saying, “(Y)ou Americans brought the gospel to us years ago and now here we are bringing it right back to you.”

Though Apostles and other American churches have remained in close relationship with the Rwandan church, a majority pulled away when the Anglican Mission in America formally ended ties in 2012. With those churches went most of the budget the Province of Rwanda had grown to depend upon for their ministerial and administrative staff, leaving the church vulnerable to disintegration.

For the past two years I have worked with our Archbishop and his team of American, Rwandan, and Kenyan Anglicans to make the Anglican Church of Rwanda financially sustainable. The stakes are high for Rwanda. The Anglican church represents almost 10% of the country’s population and it provides essentially all of the nutritional, educational, and medical services for the country’s poor. A strong church is vital for the country, both spiritually and practically.

Our team’s mission is to raise $2 million from Anglican churches, individuals, and foundation donors throughout this  country and Rwanda to fund the construction of a multi-use office building on land owned by the Province in downtown Kigali. Once built and leased it will provide sufficient cash flow to fund ideal budgeted operations for the Province for years to come. Our website provides both a summary and an in-depth strategy for our project. You might also enjoy the video by Brandon Walsh, leader of our team in Kigali.

An equally important component of our mission is to form a company based on a model known as the Church Commission of Kenya. It has worked exceptionally well for the Anglican Church of Kenya for decades. The company will be comprised of gifted business people and developers who will act as the business arm of the Church to professionally develop property and to ensure optimal stewardship and development of the resources God has provided His Church.

We at Apostles are truly blessed to walk with Rwanda. Ask anyone who has been and he or she will eagerly share how much we learn from them spiritually. Their glowing faces and genuine joy amidst their physical poverty brightly proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives. As Jim Dotson says “the more we walk with Rwandans, the more we see our Lord for who He is.” It is not an overstatement to say that we need to walk with Rwanda.

We are so grateful to the Freedom for Mission team, the Leadership Team, and every member of Apostles for so generously supporting Walk With Rwanda.

--Sam Bass

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Freedom for Mission: A Word from Curt Solomon

I've been deeply struck this week as I have been preparing for communion.  We pray each week to God our Father, saying--- “In your infinite love you made us for yourself…”  I have been marinating in what it means to be made FOR God.  We talk a lot about being made in His image, and we are "created in Christ Jesus to do good works that He has prepared in advance for us to do.”  We also talk a lot about His deep love for us and that He rescued us from sin and death.  But, I don’t often spend much time processing through the idea that God made us for Himself.  He made you and me for His pleasure and His desire.  He not only desires us enough to redeem us from our sinfulness, but He loves so deeply that He made us to experience the complete love that Father, Son and Holy Spirit share in relationship together.  He made us FOR Himself.  He desires us, supports us, dreams for us, encourages us and gets excited us?  He created us so that He could have relationship with us and and delight in us.  It bends my mind around and around trying to grasp.

Isn’t this understanding of our relationship with God, and the intimacy that He desires from us, pointing us toward being freed up?  Freed up like we talked about in Deuteronomy 15 and the cancelling of debts every 7 years.  Free to grow and change and, yes, mess up, but also free to ask for help from the community around us.  Not only were the people encouraged to cancel debts in those years, but they were also encouraged to help when a brother or sister was in need.  It seems like this is what Freedom for Mission is hoping for us as a community: Freeing up the debt that our community holds so that we can actually do a far better and more thorough job of being ready to serve, care for and be a resource for our neighbors near and far.

God made us for Himself.  We are His and He desires deep intimacy with us.  The questions I ask myself are: Being made for God, how am I following His example of forgiveness for purposes of reconciliation? And, how are my family and I being called to live out God’s desires and dreams for us in the context of the Apostles community?

Your brother in Christ,


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Freedom for Mission: A Word from Alpesh Patel About Missions

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”     Acts 1:8
"…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith."    Heb. 12:1b-2a
What is “Missions?”  What is the church's role in Mission?  How is the LORD specifically calling Church of the Apostles to further enter into His work to "transform the City" for Jesus Christ?   These are the questions a group of eight individuals wrestled with for over a year (fall 2012-fall 2013) along with studying Scripture and seeking out the best practices in missions, both locally and nationally.  
The result led to the creation of a Missions Initiative Strategy that pointed to short-, medium-, and long-term goals associated with opportunities that can propel our congregation into deeper mission in very practical ways.  

Parts of this Strategy are already in motion and are having an impact (such as the adoption of ministry partners by our Community Groups) and other aspects (such as broader involvement in overseas mission work) will take time.

The Strategy also strengthens our current partnership with the nearly 20 ministry partners (both domestic and international) and five missionaries of Apostles, while opening the door for new partnerships to grow. 
Our partnerships are a vital way Christ is shared on college campuses, through sports & summer camps, in mentoring capacities and job skill programs, and many other ways.  
A revised Missions Policy now governs the timing and annual evaluation of ministry partner applications and requires the submittal of financial statements.  It also directs financial support based on a rigorous review of congregational involvement and ongoing partnership opportunities. 
Through these changes and the framework of the Mission Initiative Strategy our church is poised to take exciting, tangible steps to continue "onward and upward" (as CS Lewis is famously quoted) in mission minded engagement. 
Scripture reminds us to wait on God's timing (Isaiah 40:31) and how He prepares a season in our lives (Eccles. 3:1) that is in sync with His purposes.  It is clear to see how the launch of Freedom for Mission (or FFM) compliments the missions groundwork that’s been laid and beckons us to enter into a spiritual journey to consider our role (both individually and as a community) in advancing His Kingdom. 
 Let us enter this time with great celebration as to what the LORD has done already but also with great anticipation of what the LORD will do as more of our resources and ultimately our lives are freed up to serve Him.

One of the tenets of FFM is to “Bring the Blessing Forward."  This is a purposeful way to enable immediate participation in mission by taking 20% of every pledge received & directing it towards a local mission partner (“Community Hope”) and an international partner (“Walk with Rwanda.”) 
“Bring the Blessing Forward” is a unique way to see “first fruits” of mission investment and will act as a catalyst to create other opportunities to meet needs and make near-term impacts in our city.
 What a privilege to look back 3 years ago at our Mission Team’s charge to build a “hands-on, transformative congregational involvement" strategy, and to realize our church is on the cusp of that today through FFM.  I praise God for this; I praise Him for this exciting time in our church, and pray for His Spirit to move in our hearts in joyful obedience as we walk with Him by faith and trust in Him for the results.
---By Alpesh Patel 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Freedom for Mission: A Word from The Simpsons

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:1-2).  

Are you ready to run the race?  God calls us to throw off anything hindering us and run with Him the race of life.  When we cross the heavenly finish line, don’t we want to know we gave it our all - all of our faith, love and joy?  And that we spent our resources for His mission on Earth?

When we were asked to help co-chair Freedom for Mission (FFM), we were immediately excited about how God can use this campaign to throw off what hinders (mortgage debt) and show His love for His church and for those served through us.  We are fortunate to be part of a church on mission.  So many members of our church are serving as missionaries or engaged in leadership roles with ministries throughout our community and around the world.   Just imagine how God can bless these and other ministries if we are able to shift resources from repaying mortgage debt to investing more fully into His mission. 
The launch of FFM is also an opportunity to reflect upon God’s past provision for our church and to remind ourselves of His faithfulness.  After years of “wandering in the wilderness” without a permanent home, the congregation authentically partnered with God in 2007 as part of the Upon This Rock (UTR) capital campaign to purchase and remodel the building that is now Church of the Apostles. With a new pastor, a recent church plant, and a much smaller congregation, fundraising consultants said UTR was unlikely to succeed.  Yet this assessment did not leave room for God’s faithful provision and the congregation’s generous, sacrificial giving.  

In the Old Testament, the Israelites built stone memorials in grateful remembrance of God’s help and faithfulness.  On Sunday, the congregation built our own memorial, called an Ebenezer, as a reminder of all that God has provided for Church of the Apostles in the past and of His steadfast love for us as we pursue His mission into the future.  

With a membership that is now double the size it was in 2007, it is exciting to envision how God can use FFM to bless others by freeing our church to dive deeper into mission in our community and around the world.  Over the next four weeks, we pray that each of us will authentically partner with God to throw off what is hindering and - as a church on mission - run the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus. 

---Stephanie and Dana Simpson

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Man with the Mustache (or How I Met Ron Block) By Jonathan Noël

Nearly 20 years ago, I was living gig-to-gig as a touring musician in Nashville, Tenn. On weekends that I was “off the road,” one of my great joys was being a part of leading worship at my local church. About five or six times a year, my worship director would ask me to sub for him so he could have a break. It was a great honor that I would happily accept.

I was a member of a church in which many of the other members were also road-weary-artist types.  On one particular Sunday that I subbed, a kind-faced gentleman, wearing an impressive mustache, approached me after the service. He introduced himself as “Ron,” warmly encouraged me and told me that he appreciated my leadership and musicianship. He then said he’d enjoy leading with me if I needed a guitar player. I thanked him for his encouragement and his offer. Not knowing him, I would all but forget his offer to volunteer.

At the time, I was also working part-time at Circuit City (a store like Best Buy, now extinct), in the Music Department. One of my required nightly routines was to straighten up all of the CDs (compact discs, nearly extinct) that had been mixed-up during the day. As I was straightening the Country/Blue Grass section, a familiar face (or mustache), on the cover of an Alison Kraus & Union Station record (“So Long So Wrong” – I’m listening to it now as I write this; SO good), caught my eye. “Wait a sec,” I said to myself, “that’s the same dude that talked to me after church.” I knew it was him, even though the kind face I’d met at church was a bit more austere in the cover photo.

Though I wasn’t a huge fan of country music, I bought the CD and threw it into my boom box (a portable cassette/CD player, also nearly extinct) as soon as I got back to my tiny apartment. The music was amazing. The harmonies were so tight and the precision of the instrumentation was mind blowing. The final track, “There Is a Reason,” left me an unexpected, tearful mess. In the liner notes (record/writer credits that once came inside the cd case, also extinct), I discovered that "Ron" -- Ron Block -- wrote the song. I was floored.

That following Sunday I spotted Ron as he was heading out the door of the sanctuary after church. I caught up with him and nervously said something like, “Hey. Hey there. Hey, I’m leading worship again next month. I’d love – I mean, would you still like to play guitar? You don’t have to.” Ron smiled saying, “I’d love to, though I’d prefer to play electric if you don’t mind. I play a lot of acoustic.” “Anything you say – I mean, that sounds great.”

To make a long story short, Ron and I (and later on, his wife Sandra and my wife Amanda) became dear friends. Looking back, it was almost like he knew I needed him that day – when he encouraged me after church – and not for the obvious “musical” reasons. Ron became a trusted and honest voice in my walk with the Lord. His love for Jesus and his life in the grip of grace spurs me on to this day.

On Sunday evening, October 4, come to Apostles to hear a great man share some great music. Tickets are available to the public now. Get yours before they sell out!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Rwanda Team: Going Deep

Blog posts keep coming in from the Rwanda Team. . .

Imana Ishimwe (God be praised), Alleluia, awesome!  I’ve used these words a lot since arriving here last Friday.  However, there are no words to describe Tuesday for me.  We went back to the Gikeomero Church to have individual prayer time with church members who would come.  Pastor Alfred only announced this time on Sunday when we were at worship.

We arrived at 9:00 and had some worship time.  At 10:00, Pastor Alfred split us into two prayer teams with Curt and Eric and two other Pastors and one interpreter in each team.  Our particular team was outside and the other team was in Pastor Alfred’s house.  We could not pray inside the church because people kept coming, so worship, singing and dancing continued in the church.

People started lining up at both stations.  Some helped to keep it orderly.  For quite a while, two ladies from the church stayed with us outside and helped pray for many people.  The sun was bright so they held two umbrellas over us.  The people kept coming.  All the school children were out at different times, either in the church singing or watching from a distance—several teenage girls from school came for prayer.

I turned around at one point and saw children hanging out of the doors and windows of the church, children filling up the school yard, music and singing filling the mountainside from the church and a long line of people waiting for prayer(Praise God).  We prayed for four and one-half hours—none of us even realizing the time.  As I have pondered that sight since Tuesday, I have realized it was the most perfect picture of heaven God has ever shown me where all of God’s saints will be singing, praising and worshipping Him continually!

It was a joy and privilege to be part of a team praying for friends from our “sister” church.  I have never felt the Holy Spirit moving in such real and powerful ways.  The needs are deep, the prayers went deep and the good news is we serve a God who wants to “go deep” with us!

Alleluia, Amen
-Barbara Wilson

July 24, 2015
It has been an absolutely beautiful week.  As much as I have missed Erin and my kids, it’s hard to believe that we are coming to the end of this wonderful journey.  I wish you could see the view from the dining room where we stay.  The wonderful mountains, the homes nestled into the banana and eucalyptus trees.  The most amazing part, though, is the huge and shining smiles of the people that we have encountered.

Those smiles were nowhere brighter and larger than the smiles we encountered as we spent time with compassion children that team members have sponsored.  I was truly moved meeting Claudine who my family sponsors and prays for.  Claudine was an absolutely delightful young lady.  She is 10 and really enjoys school.  My daughter Sophie T asked that we bring Claudine a jump rope.  Her excitement over the jump rope was really special.  Maybe even more special was that as we went outside to play with the jump rope for the first time, Claudine shared with the younger children before she even used it herself.  New toys in the Solomon household are not cherished or shared with such joy.  

Talking with the children was not necessarily easy and happened mostly through a translator.  One of my big learnings this week is how much can be communicated through the common language of pointing, smiling, and simply being together.  Through conversation with Claudine, however, I learned that she is a twin and has a younger brother.  The children live just with their mother as their father left several years ago.  They grow beans, but she did say that it is very difficult without her father and she asked that we pray that her father would return with a pure heart.  She also asked for prayer for her schooling which is going very well, and asked for prayer that she would see Jesus every day of her life.  

I had the honor of praying for and with Claudine as our time came to a close.  I prayed for the things listed above, but also for her health and growth.  Claudine, at 10 years old, then prayed for me, my family and our church.  I was blessed to tears, by her faith maturity, her kind and caring spirit, and her love of the Lord.  And, truth be told, moved to tears in writing these words to you today.  

After visiting with these very special children, and seeing the deep need, I am grateful that God has opened this opportunity for Erin and I to serve the kingdom through our small contribution to Compassion.  And I know if you are interested in serving through writing letters and praying for a child or two in Rwanda, Teresa Kincaid would be more than happy to help you make that happen.

-Curt Solomon

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Rwanda Blog: Team Gratitude

It’s the last night of the trip. The Team scattered to pack up for the 30-hour trip ahead of us. We’re absolutely exhausted and inexpressibly glad for all we’ve seen God do this week.
Will just led us with his signature straight-forward, compelling honesty in a devotion about returning to the States with courage to tell about God’s works and to keep seeking him and serving him. 

Then, to cap things off, we created the list below, attempting to list as many things we as we could that we were grateful for. We could have gone a lot longer, but here’s the top of the list. 
Enjoy! See you on American soil! Yesu ashimwe! (Jesus be praised!)

  • this team
  • hospitality of the Rwandans 
  • intentional team discussions
  • team devotions 
  • answered prayers for Clementine to obtain a job
  • prayer request book at the cell group
  • Pastor Alfred, his family, and their testimony 
  • Jennifer & Claire who served us meals
  • honesty and openness of prayer requests
  • prayer ministry with Gikomero 
  • Pastor Prosper
  • leadership of Curt and Eric and Teresa 
  • seeing and meeting our compassion children
  • P-A-U-L
  • the children and families thirst for knowledge of God
  • simplicity of life
  • Eugenie
  • Kigali Genocide Memorial
  • living for the sake of others
  • mosquito nets
  • Claudine
  • open windows
  • health
  • Rev Gasana
  • tiny bananas
  • charades
  • Pastor Joseph
  • 12 days of good weather
  • breakfast soup
  • nutella
  • running 
  • sunsets and sunrises
  • renewal of the Wilson’s wedding vows
  • raptor attack
  • Bishop Kalimba’s testimonies
  • Healthy Mums
  • hot water
  • Celestine
  • our amazing finance keeper Taylor 
  • prompted to pray and anoint people
  • Prince of Peace
  • catching up with old friends // being treated like an old friend
  • being prayed for
  • dancing with church choirs 
  • fiber gummies
  • baby powder
  • bananagrams
  • instant coffee
  • cabbage spaghetti sauce

  • seeing God at work

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Rwanda Blog: Bishop Jared

I could be a great Christian if I lived in Rwanda.
These were my words the other night at dinner.  

Today our group was privileged to spend the day with Bishop Jared Kalimba.    He is captivating.    Truly, captivating.  First of all, the manner in which he speaks English with a beautiful Kinyarwanda accent is mesmorizing.  He was present during the genocide and is one of the few elders that remain in the community.   A whole generation is an entrepreneur.  But what was most impressive is how every word spoken goes back to serving Jesus.  

Rwanda Blog: Compassion

This morning we met our Compassion children that we sponsor.  As the children were all playing together, I noticed a verse on the back of their t-shirts.  The verse was in Kinyarwanda but I was able to decipher that it was from Luke 2:52.  At the first available opportunity, I looked up the verse:   

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.  Luke 2:42

This verse perfectly captures my prayer for my sponsored child, Justine, as well as the others with whom we spent the morning with.  I invite those of you with children you’ve sponsored through Compassion International to pray the same for your sponsored child.    

Friday, July 24, 2015

Rwanda Blog: A Supernatural God

Tuesday, July 22, 2015
Gikomero, Rwanda

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me . . . (Isaiah 61:1a)

This is it.  Today is the day we go to Gikomero to do what we came to Rwanda to do.  Pray.  Sure, we’ve been praying at various places and for various people since we arrived in Rwanda, but today is the day we go to Gikomero to lay hands on those who have come to receive healing prayer.  This time will be similar to communion prayer time at COTA and RAC, only it will be extended by about 3.5 hours.  As I eat breakfast with the team before we leave, I can feel the Holy Spirit at work in me.  He is telling me that he has already gone ahead of me to select the people I will pray with and for and that He will put His word in my heart and on my lips.  Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say (Exodus 4:11).  With that, I am ready.  Not anxious. Not apprehensive.  Just ready. 

We arrive at Gikomero and go directly into the sanctuary where we join some folks for a short time of worship and to hear a brief teaching on Jesus’ healing of a paralytic as told in Luke’s Gospel.  (Luke 5:17-26)  Then it’s time to divide our team into two prayer groups.  As we do so I pray – “Lord may these groups be divided according to your will and for your purposes.”

Prayer team #1 – Pastor Eric, John, Teresa, Elizabeth and Patterson – is to go to the Pastor’s house to pray along with some Gikomero church members and a translator. 

Prayer team #2 – Pastor Curt, Barbara, Will, and myself, along with Pastor Alfred and three other Gikomero church members – are stationed just outside of the sanctuary – in the sun – and about 50 yards away from an outdoor stable housing about 8 very chatty cows.  Before I can even ponder (i.e., freak out about) all of the distractions surrounding me (school children are now starting to swarm), the Lord puts a hymn on my heart.  “For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies . . . Lord of all, to thee we raise, this our hymn of grateful praise.”   

I (silently) call on the Holy Spirit just before we begin and immediately He sends a steady, cool breeze and the women inside of the sanctuary begin singing and I know He has surrounded us.  Time to get our prayer on. 

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion.  Isaiah 61:1b-3a

Our first patient (not sure what the appropriate noun is in this situation) is a woman requesting prayer for healing from a tumor in her belly.  Got it. Prayers are said. Amen. Who’s next?  But then the Spirit moved in Pastor Curt and he asked if the woman was a Christian.  And thus the proverbial floodgate was opened and we were introduced to our first of numerous persons requesting prayer for healing and protection from the effects of witchcraft, curses, or demons. 

This woman had attended a wedding in which a “healer” was also in attendance.  She was healthy before the wedding, but soon thereafter developed a massive tumor in her belly ("Massive" as in she looked about 5 months pregnant).  The culprit? Witchcraft.  And she had been questioning her faith in God ever since.   

Being the logical person I am, I was quick to slough off the idea of witchcraft.  My response was to chalk these ailments up to something that I could understand.  Something I had experience with.  Something – well – logical.  The only thing I could wrap my brain around was a medical diagnosis (I’ve read enough on  I know the drill.  You’ve got a common cold, cancer, or you’re pregnant. Easy enough.)  Before I could finish assessing this woman’s symptoms, the Lord interrupted my thoughts with Scripture from Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not again flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” 

Almost instantly, I could feel the darkness pressing in on all sides.  There was a spiritual battle happening around our prayer circle and the presence of evil was palpable.  But stronger still was the light of Jesus Christ.  “The light that shines in the darkness and the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:5).  It was clear to those of us praying what the task before us was.  So with full confidence in the power of Jesus’ name, we entered into prayers for spiritual cleansing and protection knowing full well that it is only because of Jesus’ shed blood that we were able to rebuke Satan and his effect on these people’s physical and spiritual health.  Jesus Christ died once and for all.  The enemy has been defeated and Christ is seated on the right hand of the Father.  The strife is over, the battle won.  

And so it was for the remainder of the morning.  At times the Holy Spirit prayed through me as I interceded for patients.  Other times it was necessary to intercede for the other members of our prayer team as they fought against the forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  It was at these times that I had a clear vision of Aaron and Hur holding up Moses’ hands as he prayed on the hill top when Joshua and the Israelites fought against the Amalekites.  “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.  When Moses’ hands grew tired . . . Aaron and Hur held his hands up” Exodus 17:11-12

Periodically, the Lord would give us a small respite from the battle.  One which was particularly memorable came in the form of a woman who was a week past her due date requesting prayer for the safe delivery of her child.  I had the good fortune of laying hands on her very pregnant belly and feeling her baby move (leap for joy?) at the mention of Jesus’ name.  It was a beautiful experience and most certainly a gift from God. 

There was also a young woman whose family was Muslim but she wanted to receive Christ.  What a joy and honor it was to walk alongside this young woman as she confessed her sins and received Jesus.  We later heard from Pastor Alfred that she was going to go home and share the Good News with her family.  Yesu ishimwe! 

Despite the weight of many of the prayer requests we received, I left our time of healing prayer confident in God’s faithfulness to his promises. 

He will bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.  Isaiah 61:3

Although I may not ever see how the Lord responds to our intercessions, I know that He will.  How do I know this?  Because I’ve experienced His supernatural empowering of my prayers through His Holy Spirit.  He was there while we prayed.  He heard our cries to him for mercy and healing and he did not turn a deaf ear to us.   And he will answer our requests in ways unexpected, because He is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine.  Thank you, Jesus for your great love for us!

Can I get an Alleluia, Amen, Imana Ishimwe (Praise be to God)?  

---Taylor Waren

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Rwanda Blog: The Power of God

Blessed are those who consider the poor!    --Psalm 41: 1

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow  put into small copper coins.  And he said, “Truly, I tell you this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

I had a special privilege of witnessing the power of God’s Word in Psalm 41: 1 and Luke 21: 1-4 on Saturday and Sunday at COTA Church of Gikomero.  Our brothers and sisters, living in severe poverty, are giving out of their poverty to rebuild their new church which fell down.  

Saturday we saw the new strong foundation.  Pastor Alfred shared he is giving the funds received for his greatly needed motorbike to the construction of Gikomero’s new church.  Sunday a collection was received for the rebuilding of the new church.  A member brought forward a bag of vegetables, this was all they had to offer.  These were sold and funds used for the church.  One of our Interpreters was so moved by the love for Christ church, he promised to donate five 50 lb. bags of cement.  The congregation was thrilled with this precious gift!  

God desires us to love others as He loves us with a love we do not deserve!  Pastor Alfred and our brothers and sisters of Gikomero are loving others well!  They are sacrificing all they have for the sake of the gospel through the reconstruction of their new church and sharing the gospel within their community.  I am challenged to be more attentive and eager in seeking God’s will as He speaks to my heart in regard to making sacrifices to further His kingdom.

God gave me a beautiful gift on Tuesday as we toured the Shyogwe Diocese projects.  As we entered the Mother’s Union Vocational Sewing Class, I heard a young girl call my name as she jumped out of her seat and ran into my arms.  I looked into her face, and saw Belise, our Compassion child!  We sat together holding hands during the team’s visit.  My heart was overflowing with love for Belise and praise to God for this wonderful, wonderful surprise!  What a blessing it was to tell her I would visit with her on Thursday at the Compassion Project!  Claudine, director of the Mother’s Union, told me Belise is a very good student and will graduate in October.  I am very proud of Belise and grateful to the Mother’s Union for educating the young girls with the skill of sewing.  The Diocese’s desire is to have the opportunity to give each girl a sewing machine at the time of their Graduation, so they are able to work at home and help provide an income.  Currently the funds for these sewing machines aren’t available.  I pray the funds will become available.  As our brothers and sisters say, “God will provide.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

H.S. Mission to Ohio: Great First Day

Hello Parents and Church Family: 

We had a great first day yesterday! We are working in 3 separate groups and are doing a variety of activities -- building a wheelchair ramp, building a shed, and re roofing a house! Yesterday morning, we were able to do a "scavenger hunt" around the city where we are working. Many of us loved that -- it was such a neat opportunity to learn more about the community where we are serving! 

We are the only church group here this week, and I think we all agree that we love that! We have space to spread out and we are able to spend lots of time with the 10-person staff that is spending the summer here. Also the food is fantastic; they cook for us every morning and evening! We have had grilled corn on the cob and grilled chicken -- and homemade pancakes for breakfast! 

We are about to head out to our worksites for the day but I wanted to send you all an e-mail update. Please pray for good nights of sleep, as we all want to feel our best at our worksites. I am so proud of these students -- they make me love this job so deeply. Chris feels the same and just told me to tell all of you hello.

Have a great week! I will send another update soon! Thanks for letting us spend this week with your students. God is so good!  
--Kara Smith

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Rwanda Blog: Living Water

Today we were given a full tour of the Gikomero campus – the original church, the foundations for the new church, the clinic, the new HIV and lab building, the school rooms, the cow stables, and Pastor Alfred’s home.  People were everywhere – getting vaccinations, newborn babies and moms, recovering malaria patients, and school children.
My special memorable moment today was when we were driven a mile or more down a really rutted curvy road to the well pump station that is part of the water project Apostles helped provide.  We inspected the pump station and met the pump operator and then went back uphill to the new water tank on the Gikomero campus.  We were all invited to climb a wooden ladder to the top of the tank and Pastor Alfred opened the hatch on top of the tank and we could watch the clean water filling the tank.  Until this project was completed all the water for the campus and clinic had to be carried in.  We all stood together on the tank and prayed a prayer of thanksgiving for this water system and a prayer of blessing for how this water will allow Gikomero church to meet the needs of the clinic and the community.
The church plans that other locations in the area will also receive water from this tank as soon as more connecting pipes can be constructed. Pastor Alfred called this water “living water” that was bringing new life to the Gikomero church and clinic.  This “living water” will be part of the “spiritual living water” that the Gikomero church is spreading through Pastor Alfred and the ministry of Gikomero parish.

--John Wilson

Monday, July 20, 2015

Rwanda Blog: On the Ground Ready to Go

After 12 hours across the ocean on a very large plane, we touched down in the small Middle Eastern country of Qatar. Felt like 135 degrees on the tarmac, and it was immediately clear, we weren’t in Kansas.

 Our eyes met travelers from Arabic, Asian, African and probably a hundred other nations. Beautiful people, all made by God. But very different from a stroll through North Hills. 

And we weren’t there yet.

Several hours more, and our eyes finally met the bright-faced, mild-mannered people of our host nation. Getting our passports checked, the Team began butchering and blundering some basic Kinyarwanda vocab. That produced some smiles from the otherwise stoic passport screening officials. 

Then finally, familiar faces! Eugenie. Celestine. Claudine. And many more familiar faces appeared, eager to greet us and welcome us. We sat down in the room where we’ll share meals this week, and enjoyed fresh crepes, fresh fruit and hot tea while the mellow sun sank beyond the rolling hills outside the window. 

As I type, most of the Team is playing Bananagrams in the dark because power is out. Something that happens almost nightly. We’re tired but looking forward to what’s ahead.

And what’s ahead is more faces of people made by God, loved by God. We will lock eyes with old friends and new friends in Gikomero tomorrow. We will sing, maybe dance and definitely seek the Lord with them in worship Sunday. And the week will continue from there.

Our aim is to pray with people. Sounds thoroughly unproductive in some ways. And yet, the point of our journey, the point of being linked with these folks is relationship. And there aren’t many more things that link you closer than praying with someone. So, our hope is to pray. To pray a lot.

Pray with the Shyogwe diocesan staff. With Pastor Alfred, who is Gikomero’s new pastor, and his family. With the mothers of the Healthy Mums Project. With the Health Center staff and patients. And hopefully with some families of the church. 

And the Lord only knows what will happen as he hears and answers these prayers we pray with our brothers and sisters. But hopefully we will walk away closer to them, and them to us. 

We’re on our way. Pray for us!

-Eric Bolash